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Two St. Olaf students named Smaby Peace Scholars

St. Olaf students Benjamin Gusdal ’25 (left) and Emma Gross ’25 (right), pictured here in Japan while on an international tour this June with the St. Olaf Band, are spending seven weeks in Norway this summer as part of the Peace Scholars Program. Photo by Evan Pak ’19

St. Olaf College students Emma Gross ’25 and Benjamin Gusdal ’25 have been named Smaby Peace Scholars.

The Peace Scholars Program is designed to expand students’ awareness of current issues relating to peace, justice, democracy, and human rights through a series of educational experiences in Norway. Two students from five Norwegian-American Lutheran colleges — Augsburg, Concordia, Luther, St. Olaf, and Pacific Lutheran University — are chosen to participate.

Students at St. Olaf receive funding to participate in the program through the Philip C. Smaby Peace Scholars Endowed Scholarship, which was established in honor of the late Philip Carlyle Smaby, a Minneapolis-St. Paul philanthropist who attended St. Olaf and three of whose children are alumni (Mark Smaby ’66, Gary Smaby ’71, and John Smaby ’76).

The program begins with a weeklong session about dialogue for all of the scholars. They then move to the University of Oslo International Summer School, where they will spend six weeks deepening their understanding of the history and theories regarding conflict, war, and peace.

“I am hoping to gain skills that will make me a better communicator and listener in situations with groups that I may disagree with,” says Gusdal. “Moreover, I am looking forward to living and studying with students with backgrounds from around the world!”

Gusdal is a physics, mathematics, and political science major at St. Olaf. He is a member of the St. Olaf band and St. Olaf Orchestra, and is also an athlete on the St. Olaf Swimming and Diving team. He recently returned from touring Japan with the St. Olaf Band, the most recent of four national and international tours he’s taken with the college’s music ensembles. He hopes to develop a career in a field that connects his interests in science and politics — possibly through policy — and is looking forward to the insight this summer’s program will provide.

“I am really excited to learn more about international peace studies and dialogue, and hope to bring that back to St. Olaf,” he says.

Gross is majoring in psychology and Norwegian at St. Olaf. She is a member of the St. Olaf Psychology Club and did research with the department this spring. Later this summer and into the fall she will conduct research with the St. Olaf Norwegian Department. Gross is also a musician in the St. Olaf Band, having recently returned from the ensemble’s tour to Japan. 

“I have had opportunities to travel internationally, but studying at the University of Oslo is my first time studying abroad,” she says. “I am very grateful for this opportunity to come to Norway and get to study here as well. This is the first time the Peace Scholar program is back in Norway due to the pandemic. As a Norwegian major, it’s incredible how I can use the Norwegian language skills that I learned at St. Olaf in Oslo and around Norway. Being here has allowed me to meet other students worldwide and learn from their experiences, identities, and cultures.”