Q&A: Meet your 2019 Nobel Peace Scholars

Juniors Ryan Solberg and Chofian (JuJu) Abobakr will spend seven weeks this summer studying conflict, war and peace in Oslo, Norway, as Augustana’s 2019 Peace Scholars.

Solberg, a government major from Mitchell, South Dakota, said he is interested in studying different perspectives on current political issues, as well as the causes and effects of rural poverty.


2019 Peace Scholar junior Ryan Solberg. Photo by Jessica Ruf.


Abobakr, a double major in government and communication studies with a minor in theatre, said her personal experience as a Kurd shapes her understanding of ethnic peace and conflict. Born in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq, Abobakr fled to Turkey when she was 9 years old. At age 13, Abobakr and her family moved to Sioux Falls.


2019 Peace Scholar junior Chofian (JuJu) Abobakr. Photo by Jessica Ruf.


What do you hope to do with your major?

Solberg: “I am hoping to have a career in politics—not quite sure what exactly yet. Just want to see where life takes me, what opportunities are open, and hopefully, I’ll end up in something that I really enjoy.”

Abobakr: “I’m hoping [for] something international like international relations, State Department, or maybe immigration law.”

What issues are you passionate about regarding peace?

Solberg: “One thing that I’m really passionate about regarding peace is the rise of right-wing populist movements that we are seeing throughout the West. I think it’s something that is a huge impediment to peace between groups, especially as the West becomes more multicultural … accepting in more immigrants and refugees from different cultures.” Solberg also says he is interested in studying rural poverty.

Abobakr: “I firmly believe that theater and media make a change. They plant seeds and make a change: that’s how society moves forward.” She said she is passionate about rights regarding immigration, LGBTQ+ individuals and kids and women’s issues.

Is there a person or experience in your life that has shaped your passion for peace and human rights?

Solberg: “[My dad] is a high school civics teacher, so he was the person who really got me interested in politics, history and economics—how they run together and how I can make an impact through politics.”

Abobakr: “When I had to flee an oppressive country to go to another oppressive country, I never had a home. My experiences in life have shaped me. I think my ethnic background is responsible for a lot of my views.”

What are you most looking forward to in Norway?

Solberg: “I’m really looking forward to seeing the fjords and the beautiful scenery around Norway.”

Abobakr: “I’m really excited to be interacting with people who’ve dedicated their whole life to this specific thing and seeing how I want to contribute to that cause. I’m really excited for the people there.”

What do you  hope to take away from the Peace Scholars Program this summer?

Solberg: “Broadening my perspective, getting to meet with diverse groups of people, and seeing what their perspectives on these issues are, that’s what I’m hoping to take away from the experience.”

Abobakr: “I hope that I come home with a better understanding of conflict, dialogue and resolution.” Abobakr said she hopes the experience will help her spark dialogue at Augustana.

What is your favorite book and why?

Solberg: The Professional by W.C. Heinz.  “It’s a book about a middleweight/heavyweight boxing contender. It’s interesting because, in a game that’s built on a lot of carnival barker and frauds, this guy truly takes it seriously and believes in boxing as an art.”

Abobakr: The Madness Vase by Andrea Gibson. “A lot of the poetry in there talks about social justice, privilege, oppression and racism. It’s really nice to hear those issues not from a logical side, but in an emotional, compassionate, creative way.”

Who is your biggest role model?

Solberg: “Everything that I’ve learned about treating other human beings decently or trying to be a good human being, I’ve learned from my father.”

Abobakr: “My mom is one of my biggest role models because she is responsible for the responsibilities and privileges I have to grow up in America instead of in Iraq and in poverty.”

What hobbies or interests do you enjoy in your free time?

Solberg: “In my spare time, I like playing ping-pong with my roommates and following global soccer. My favorite team is Everton, based in Liverpool.”

Abobakr: “All I do is read and listen to poetry. I am in love with poetry.” Abobakr also said she works four jobs.

How are you involved at Augie?

Solberg: “I’m involved in the Augustana Student Association; I’m the Co-Curriculum Chairman. So, we do everything having to do with learning outside the classroom or having to improve the student experience here at Augustana.” Solberg is also involved with the Civitas Honors Program as a student assistant to director Professor Bill Swart and is working at the Nancy Dickinson Writing Center.

Abobakr: “A lot of the things I choose to do are a little bit outside of Augie.” Abobakr is also a Viking Advisor in Tuve and is involved in the theater program.

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