Promoting peace: scholars headed to Norway
Peace, justice, democracy and human rights will all be topics two Augustana students are set to explore this summer in Oslo, Norway. As Augustana’s 2017 Peace Scholars, sophomore Jessica Ruf and junior Tia McKillip are hoping to deepen their understanding of peace during their summer of dialogue in Norway’s capital.
When did you first become interested in issues of peace?
Ruf: “I think I’ve been passionate about social justice and peace for my whole life. Growing up, a lot of the books that impacted me the most were broadly based on social justice themes, and so throughout high school I knew that I’d always wanted to make a difference in the world, too.”
McKillip: “I’ve been interested since I was very young. My mom is involved in an international organization called the Rotary Club, which basically facilitates projects and discussions between people all over the world. [Because of that], we had people from all over the world stay with us frequently. Meeting those people and discussing what their culture was like, and then comparing it with my own, helped me to think about these things. My parents are also just very passionate about social justice and peace.”
Is there a particular class on campus that has influenced your view of peace and conflict?
Ruf: “Definitely ‘Pursuing an Ethic of Empathy in Journalism’ with Janet Blank-Libra. I took the class in January and it really showed me how you can use journalism to create understanding between two misunderstood populations and things along those lines. We read a lot of powerful books in that class. Janet’s class truly impacted me and helped me to understand how to create understanding in the world.”
McKillip: “Last semester I took ‘Identity Conflict in World Politics’ with Dr. Dondelinger and the whole class discussed world conflicts and their contributing factors. One thing that wasn’t highlighted as much, though, was the process of peace. Even as an international affairs major, you’d think it’d be a core part of the teaching, but even in academia, it’s given this utopic definition [that teaches from the standpoint of what peace is as the process.]So it was the discussion that we had and didn’t have that really sparked my interest.”
What inspired you to apply for the Peace Scholars program?
Ruf: “The drive to create peace. Journalism can be used to create understanding and so when I read the newspaper, I can come closer to understand whatever it is that I read. So for example, if I read about a refugee that is in need of help, I can start to learn more about how it is that I can be of help to them. I’m truly inspired by knowing that I have access to all kinds of new knowledge and that I can actively make a difference.”
McKillip: “Not only my future career, but also what’s going on within the United States specifically right now. I’d like to be in the Peace Corps after college, so that obviously highlights the Peace Scholar program right away. Even how peace affects my perspective in college really amazes me and makes me consider not only how I can be part of the solution, but also how I could potentially be part of the problem.”
Which current or past influential figure do you admire and why?
Ruf: “This past summer I read I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai. She’s one of the youngest Nobel Peace Prize nominees and I’m really inspired by her courage. She was targeted by the Taliban but she still spoke up for women’s education and kept a blog about her life about going through school—all while knowing that her life was at stake.”
McKillip:“I’m reading Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Dyson. He grasps a larger theme of being more critically aware of those nuances that you’ve just generally become blind to and makes you think about how you really need to consider your history on a more regular basis.”
What are you most looking forward to about the Peace Scholars trip?
Ruf: “One of the things that I’m really excited for is the people that I’ll meet. There are students from roughly 120 countries, so being surrounded by that much diversity and difference of opinion sounds truly enriching and genuinely seems like a dream.”
McKillip: “I’m most looking forward to meeting people who are going to keep bringing up those challenging questions, like what’s going on now and back at home and how we’re all part of it. Using that new perspective of creating your truth and being constantly engaged and active in that process.”
If you could pass on one message to future Peace Scholars, what would you say?
Ruf: “Find what it is that you’re talented at or passionate about and find a way that you can use that to make a change or a difference in the world. How can you use your gifts and talents to improve the world you live in?”
McKillip: “Go into this experience and don’t think about it conventionally. Think about how it can be individualized and how it can be used in any context. Be open to learning about other’s conflicts and how it’s a personal part of you and how you need to be an active participant in your own life and be critical of what you’re doing.”