Community Learning Through Endowed Lectures
Each year, the Bjug Harstad Memorial Lecture is arranged by the Scandinavian Area Studies program. This endowed lecture series, made possible by generous donations by descendants of PLU’s first president and friends of the Harstad family, offers the campus and local community a diverse range of topics intended to further our understanding of Scandinavian culture and society. Topics in recent years have included migrant literature of Norway, the Arctic seen through the lens of literature, folk and classical music, and Sámi culture.
This year’s lecture, entitled “Why Norwegian Women Can Have it All,” was presented by Norwegian journalist Cathrine Sandnes. Sandnes’ title implied a contrast between American and Norwegian perspectives and practices of gender equality. In a 2012 essay entitled “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All,” American Ann Marie Slaughter made the bold statement that current conditions in American society made the balance between work and family impossible to achieve. Sandnes’ lecture conveyed a much more positive outlook. With her many years as a journalist and participant in social debate on the topics of gender equality and women’s rights, Sandnes combined her professional insights with personal experiences of growing up in an age of increasing gender equality and changing roles for women in society. In particular, Sandnes articulated the ways in which welfare state policy and national legislation have made it possible for women and men to effectively balance work and family life. She noted, however, “It is not a given that Norway will continue to be a leading country within gender equality. Much of the development moving forward will deal with the degree to which one manages to maintain a political understanding that family life and work life must be seen in context.”
The topic of each year’s Harstad lecture is purposefully designed to reach beyond an audience familiar with Norwegian culture and society to include diverse campus and community members interested in comparative views of topics of contemporary significance. The ninety-five audience members who attended the lecture in November 2014 included Harstad family and donors to the Harstad lecture, majors and minors in the programs of Norwegian and Scandinavian Area Studies, students and faculty involved in courses, interdisciplinary programs and campus initiatives on gender equality, and local community members and members of the Scandinavian Cultural Center. Cathrine Sandnes also graciously agreed to meet with Dr. Claudia Berguson’s students in her course entitled “Gender and Equality in Scandinavia.” The lively hour-long discussion with students in the classroom led several students from the course to include Sandnes’ remarks and perspectives in final course papers.
The Bjug Harstad Memorial Lecture joins other endowed lectures within the Division of Humanities to challenge our existing views, offer greater depth to our understanding, and create new awareness of the human experience through the insights of a national or international expert. Regardless of the topic, the Bjug Harstad Memorial Lecture in its name and purpose links the foundations of PLU with continued commitment to learning in the community.
— Claudia Berguson