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Kari Plog '11

Keven Drews '16
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Keven Drews ’16

“You have to raise $500,000 or you’re going to die.” In so many words, that’s what Keven Drews ’16 says his doctor told him over the phone in October, when Drews learned he was out of options in his longtime fight for his life.

Drews has faced a 14-year battle with multiple myeloma, a cancer formed in the body’s plasma cells. His last hope is a clinical trial at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, with the half-a-million price tag.

“I got 14 years,” he said. “I’m hoping to get more.”

Drews recently graduated from Pacific Lutheran University’s Rainier Writing Workshop, the low-residency Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing, after spending years working as a journalist in both Canada and Washington state. He finished the program in 2016, 13 years after receiving his diagnosis.

Drews was living in the U.S. in 2003, working in Port Townsend for the Peninsula Daily News, when one of his spinal vertebrae came apart.

“When I felt my vertebrae and accompanying back spasm it was sort of like a blunt knife going into my back,” Drews said.

Multiple myeloma is a cancer that starts in the plasma cells, which are mostly found in bone marrow. The cells then collect to form tumors called plasmacytoma. According to the American Cancer Society, most cases of multiple myeloma are found in patients who are 65 and older. Drews is 45.

He was 31 when he moved to Washington, to get acquainted with the country where his life started. Drews was born in Spokane and has dual citizenship in the U.S. and Canada. He currently lives in Surrey, British Columbia, with his wife, Yvette, and their 7-year-old twins.

“I have this birth certificate that says I am American and a passport that says I am an American,” Drews said. “So what does that mean? And to find out what that means I had to live there.”

However, once it became obvious that Drews needed serious medical attention, his plans changed. With his wife living in B.C. and the high cost of health care in the United States, Drews decided to return to Canada. He received a stem cell treatment in 2003 and has had several major relapses since his original diagnosis. The most recent relapse occurred while he was studying at PLU.

“I was a little concerned if I could make it through the program because of my health. You’re gambling here. What if you get hit by a major relapse?” Drews said. “And I did, right in the middle of thesis season.”

“The first thing I will say about Keven is that he was beloved by a lot of people in the program. He’s got a really winning personality and he’s also incredibly smart and talented as a writer, and especially hardworking despite the fact that he was dealing with so many grave medical issues.”
– Rick Barot, associate professor of English and director of the MFA program

Drews had been working for The Canadian Press when he decided to apply to PLU.

“I didn’t feel satisfied with where my life was at that point,” he said. “The Canadian Press is an awesome place to work, but I wanted to do something more academic.”

Drews was a perfect fit for the program, said Rick Barot, associate professor of English and MFA director.

“The first thing I will say about Keven is that he was beloved by a lot of people in the program,” Barot said. “He’s got a really winning personality and he’s also incredibly smart and talented as a writer, and especially hardworking despite the fact that he was dealing with so many grave medical issues.”

The three-year MFA program includes four summer residencies in which students spend 10 days on campus. The rest of the year is spent working with individual mentors. Drews’ concentration was nonfiction writing, and his work focuses a lot on his life and struggles with cancer.

His current project — an essay about his life — is on pause due to his fundraising campaign for the clinical trial. Still, he uses Facebook posts as an outlet — to provide a window into his daily life.

“I can’t just sit here and feel like I am doing nothing. I spent 20 years of my life writing in one form or another,” Drews said. “(Readers) might not make a donation but at least they can know what it is like to live with this kind of stuff.”

When Drews was on PLU’s campus, he would share his work with other students. Much of it related to his cancer.

“I think for lot of people it was challenging to read that material but I think they understood what was at stake, because he was right there showing that you could fight something and fight it with a kind of clarity that he did,” Barot said.

In addition to logging his daily life on social media, most of Drews’ days are spent at home with his children. For Yvette Drews, the possibility of losing Keven with kids in the picture has made this recent development frightening.

“It has made everything get really real – really quickly,” Yvette Drews said. “It is scary to think about what the future could be, raising two children, one on the autism spectrum, by myself.”

But hope is not lost, just pricey.

“Until now, the system up here works generally by you walking into a doctor’s office or an emergency room and popping down your care card on the back of your driver’s license,” Keven Drews said. “There is no paying up here. You just go to the doctor or hospital and then you get better. And raising money just adds so much more stress.”

The financial situation is tricky for Drews. Because the procedure is in the United States, the provincial government is hesitant to pay, but the experimental nature of the treatment and lack of FDA approval means it is highly unlikely he can get state sponsorship.

Drews explained that the clinical trial takes the body’s T-cells and re-engineers the cell DNA to attack the dangerous cancer. He says similar trials have been used for patients with leukemia and lymphoma.

“We are really lucky here in North America,” Drews said. “We can access these treatments.”

Drews’ GoFundMe page has raised more than $30,000 and he is headed to Seattle in the next few weeks for a pre-trial consultation. In the meantime, he’s appreciating each day and encourages others to do the same.

“Enjoy life,” he said. “Don’t waste time. Don’t waste seconds.”

Stephen Kitajo standing in front of the Puyallup Fair
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Stephen Kitajo ’12

The names of 7,500 Japanese Americans will soon be displayed at the Washington State Fair in Puyallup, just 9 miles from Pacific Lutheran University.

The banners bearing the names of those interned at the Puyallup Assembly Center during World War II mark a dark chapter of Pierce County’s history, when the federal government seized control of the fairgrounds for the forced relocation of its citizens.

Stephen Kitajo ’12 is working to verify all those names, after completing a historical journey of his own this summer.

Kitajo serves on the board for the Puyallup Valley Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL). His role in organizing the fair’s 75th Remembrance event Sept. 2 includes sifting through archival records to confirm the names of the Japanese Americans once confined to the fairgrounds.

“It’s been 75 years since they were forced out of their homes and forced from their lives,” Kitajo said. “This is our chance to honor them and educate the public.”

The event serves to raise awareness around the history of the fairgrounds in connection with Japanese internment during the war. The names are part of an exhibit to be hosted at the fair’s museum, and a pre-cursor to a permanent marker on the fairgrounds that will feature the same collection of names.

“That’s a huge thing to be able to call attention to,” Kitajo said. “It doesn’t matter how small you write out those names. It’s still going to catch people’s attention.”

Kitajo said he’s always had a connection to the history of Japanese internment, both as a history major and a Japanese American. Both Kitajo’s maternal and paternal grandparents were detained during the war. For the past six years, Kitajo has traveled to the Minidoka National Historic Site as part of the annual Minidoka Pilgrimage — a four-day educational journey that helps Japanese Americans reconcile their past.

The Minidoka National Historic Site houses what remains of the Minidoka War Relocation Center in Jerome County, Idaho. The camp operated from 1942-45 and held more than 9,000 Japanese Americans, in concordance with Franklin D. Roosevelt’s executive order that initiated the incarcerations.

The annual Minidoka Pilgrimage invites former incarcerees to join their family and friends on a journey to the site, where they reflect on the impact of Japanese internment on the nation’s history and their own family narratives. This year’s pilgrimage — from July 6-9 — saw 320 participants immersed in educational films, emotionally candid discussions and a tour of the Minidoka site.

The latter, Kitajo says, is perhaps the most poignant. For him, the impact of setting foot on the camp’s grounds is most powerful.

“We can hold these lectures and screen films anywhere,” Kitajo said, “but to do that in combination with visiting the site and really providing context to what we’re learning about is a crucial piece and a big part of why we do the pilgrimage.”

Kitajo became involved with the Minidoka Pilgrimage in 2012 as an intern at the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Washington. He participated in his first pilgrimage after winning a scholarship to attend through the center’s youth scholarship program.

Kitajo said his first pilgrimage was deeply personal. His maternal grandparents were held at Minidoka after being uprooted from their home during the war. His uncle was even born inside the camp.

Kitajo’s knowledge of this family history, however, was stifled growing up. His grandmother’s death and his grandfather’s health problems prevented Kitajo from truly learning about their experiences. Even Kitajo’s mother knew very little of her parents’ lives inside the camp.

“It was just one of those topics that was not discussed and you knew better than to ask about it. From what I gather from relatives, they didn’t talk about it because they didn’t want their kids to worry about it. Even though I may not know their particular story, the chance to go and get an idea of what they went through was a chance I never thought I would have.”
– Stephen Kitajo ’12

“It was just one of those topics that was not discussed and you knew better than to ask about it. From what I gather from relatives, they didn’t talk about it because they didn’t want their kids to worry about it. ” Kitajo said. “Even though I may not know their particular story, the chance to go and get an idea of what they went through was a chance I never thought I would have.”

Visiting the Minidoka site helped Kitajo connect with that family history he had yet to engage. It’s an experience Kitajo says is common with younger generations of pilgrimage participants, especially those who travel with former incarcerees.

Kitajo says the pilgrimage often stirs memories and brings long-hidden narratives to the surface.

“Overall, there’s just so much trauma for many individuals — not just survivors, but sometimes their children and grandchildren who never understood why their parents or grandparents acted the way they did,” Kitajo said. “Those moments are probably some of the most emotional that I’ve seen on the pilgrimage, when you hear from family members, ‘I have never seen my grandpa cry until today.’”

Kitajo volunteered to be on the Minidoka Pilgrimage board after completing his first trip, and now serves as co-chair. Kitajo says he loves working to make the pilgrimage happen, seeing participation grow and witnessing a diverse younger generation of Japanese Americans reconcile their family histories.

“It hasn’t been until recently that we’ve seen younger generations trying to come back to reclaim some of that identity — especially for multi-ethnic members of the younger generation,” Kitajo said. “I have friends who do struggle with dual identities or figuring themselves out. This pilgrimage is part of their journey.”

For Kitajo, the Minidoka Pilgrimage was crucial to understanding the mysteries of his family’s past and his own identity as a descendant.

“My first pilgrimage was very meaningful in giving me that perspective, as far as the hardships my family endured and the sacrifices they made,” Kitajo said. “Knowing them helps me understand who I am.”

Frank Hewins shaking hands with a teacher
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Frank Hewins ’86

A Pacific Lutheran University alumnus and a strong partner in the extended Lute family recently earned an exceptional honor from the Washington Association of School Administrators (WASA).

Frank Hewins ’86, superintendent of Franklin Pierce Schools located in PLU’s backyard, is WASA’s Superintendent of the Year for 2018.

As a result, Hewins is a candidate for the national award through the American Association of School Administrators. The award will be announced in February at the AASA national conference in Nashville, Tennessee.

Hewins has deep ties to PLU. He earned a master’s degree from the university and currently serves on the presidential selection committee, which is tasked with finding the institution’s next leader. He also helps usher the partnership between PLU and Franklin Pierce Schools, which yields community service opportunities that benefit Lutes and Parkland residents alike. Among those opportunities are Club Keithley and Winterfest. The former connects PLU students to young people in the Parkland community through volunteering and mentorship; the latter is a holiday event that provides low-income families access to a free meal, social service resources, new toys and coats for kids, and more.

But Hewins is best known for his part in improving student success in the low-income area he serves.

When a Seattle Times reporter recently asked what the WASA honor meant for him as a fixture in the community, Hewins deflected. His answer instead focused on the spirit of his work — student success and progress above all else.

“We were able to work through a lot of growing pains that I think some districts are just feeling now,” he said in the Q&A. “We’ve been able to do some things to close the achievement gaps, particularly in high-school graduation rates. Our Latino and black students now graduate at higher rates than our white kids.”

Bill Keim, WASA executive director, championed Hewins role in closing the opportunity gap within the district, which serves roughly 8,000 students — a diverse population with a 75 percent poverty rate.

“This award recognizes the tireless efforts of Frank and his team at Franklin Pierce School District in supporting the success of each student,” Keim said in a news release. “Their focused efforts to close achievement and opportunity gaps have resulted in remarkable growth in the district’s graduation rates.”

Keim stressed that growth — an 85.2 percent graduation rate that exceeds virtually all comparable state and national averages — is a direct result of Hewins’ stable leadership. He praised the superintendent’s focus on purposeful recruiting, thoughtful and rigorous professional development, social justice and equity, and more.

“While a team effort certainly created the growth, Frank’s leadership set the vision and expectation for success,” Keim said. “That type of leadership is what the Superintendent of the Year award is designed to recognize.”

Hewins has worked in Franklin Pierce Schools for three decades, a majority of his 40-year career in education. He’s been at the district’s helm for 11 years. Beyond his commitment to the partnership with PLU and his full-time administrative work, he serves on the boards of the Junior Achievement of Washington, Latino/a Education Achievement Project, Parkland-Spanaway Kiwanis Foundation, Pierce Center for Arts & Technology and the Pierce County Skills Center.

He also is a longtime member of PLU’s Administrative Professional Education Advisory Board and runs a school system that welcomes hundreds of Lutes who serve as mentors and tutors for kids in the surrounding community.

Terry Bergeson, interim dean of the School of Education and Kinesiology, says Hewins is responsible for turning a district formerly known as a “dropout factory” into one of the top-performing districts in the country.

“His work totally exemplifies our PLU mission,” Bergeson said.

Sirine Fodstad
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Sirine Fodstad ’97

Photos by John Froschauer, PLU

Sirine Fodstad ’97 spent years traveling around the world for work. But her story starts and ends in Norway.

Sitting in the lobby of Oslo’s renowned Grand Hotel on the city’s main street, she fondly recalled running into Chuck Nelson, the man responsible for attracting many Norwegian international students to Pacific Lutheran University.

During their meeting in 1993, Nelson recited his pitch to Fodstad about the American institution of Lutheran higher education — founded by Norwegian immigrants — and she was sold.

“A couple of months later I was enrolled and started my first class on a beautiful fall campus,” she said. “My first trip to America and it was a mix between scary and exciting.”

Fodstad seemed to cope well with the fear. She earned not one, not two, but three bachelor’s degrees during her time at PLU. In between studying French, business and economics, she managed to find time to study away, as well, launching her global lifestyle long before she knew where her education would take her.

“I don’t think I saw myself here when I was a student at PLU,” she said. “I ended up working with people, and I love that. It was a bit by default. I didn’t aim for that.”

Sirine Fodstad ’97, now the global human resources director of the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund, speaks to students at Pacific Lutheran University in March 2011, as part of the Executive Leadership Series. She will return to campus for a lecture this spring.
(Video by PLU School of Business)

Fodstad is the global human resources director for the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund. Its mission is to safeguard and build financial wealth for future generations in Norway, a country that has amassed significant profits in the energy sector. A portion of revenues earned in the nation’s oil and gas industry have been set aside for the global pension fund, Fodstad said. It’s her job to manage personnel matters within the fund, which recently passed $1 trillion U.S. dollars.

“It’s just amazing,” Fodstad said of the amount of savings. “I can’t really get my head around that kind of number. It’s too many zeros.”

Fodstad’s job is wide-ranging and far-reaching. She travels at least twice a year to each of the four offices around the world: London, New York, Singapore and Shanghai. “All the financial centers, basically,” she noted.

Those locations, in addition to the home base in Oslo, are strategically placed. The fund invests in stocks, state and corporate bonds, and real estate. “We are one of the largest real estate investors in the world,” Fodstad said. “We own quite a lot on Times Square.”

Fodstad said her job is never boring. She handles the so-called “employee lifecycle,” encompassing personnel matters from the time a potential hire is thinking about joining the fund to the time that person leaves. She manages everything from recruiting, training and professional development to employee relations, recognition and facility management.

“This is an organization that’s growing really quickly because the funds have grown very quickly,” she said. “That means we’re continually developing offices.”

That also means extremely varied work, she said.

“Anything from coffee machines and stationery to strategic impact of doing a new investment strategy and how to make sure you have the right people,” she said. “All over the place in a good way.”

Fodstad praises PLU’s emphasis on global education and her study away opportunities for preparing her to take on leadership roles in an international framework. After leaving Norway to study at PLU, it took her 17 years to return.

During that time, she worked in human resources and consulted for international companies. At one point in her career, she was on a plane twice a week on average.

“I’ve spent a lot of time traveling my whole career,” she said.

Her first job out of college was at an international agriculture company in Trinidad and Tobago, where she studied away as a PLU student. That experience abroad was her first time immersed in a culture totally different from her own. And she loved it. “That’s when I decided I wanted to go back,” she said. After that, she studied business for a year in France, including a semester taking classes taught in French. “I guess it gave me the taste for doing more of it,” she said of studying all over. “It gave me the opportunity to experience it firsthand.”

Fodstad’s love for her international experiences extends to the four years spent at PLU. She’s enamored with her alma mater and the lessons she learned there.

“PLU core values are very linked to the Norwegian belief system,” she said, adding that Norwegians naturally gravitate toward the university’s mission. She said the emphasis on a well-rounded education, tolerance, and embracing cultural diversity are some of the many intersections between PLU and Norwegian values.

“PLU core values are very linked to the Norwegian belief system.”

However, she stressed, Norwegians appreciate the focus on community above all else.

“There’s a lot of great connection between PLU and Scandinavia,” she said. “I hope that really continues, because I think there’s great value in that.”

Fodstad remains connected to PLU’s School of Business. She has spoken as part of the annual Executive Leadership Series and was even honored with an award during the school’s 50th anniversary celebration in 2011. This spring, she will speak as part of the Johan Mehlum Lecture Series.

Despite all her traveling — and her love of faraway places such as London and Miami — Fodstad said she’s happy her career has come full circle. She returned to Norway in 2010 for a previous job at a consulting firm.

“At some point, I had to make the decision to come home to Norway again,” she said.

Upon being hired for her current role, Fodstad said the chief executive officer told her that it appeared to be a homecoming of sorts. Fodstad agreed.

“I’m hoping that I will stay there for a long time,” she said. “I feel like I’ve come home.”

Hilde Bjørhovde at her job Aftenposten in Norway
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Hilde Bjørhovde ’80

Photos by John Froschauer, PLU

When Hilde Bjørhovde ’80 returned to Norway, fresh out of Pacific Lutheran University’s journalism program, her home nation had one television station.

It wasn’t long after, however, that the minister of culture greenlit efforts to launch commercial TV and radio, Bjørhovde recalled.

“So, I was there at the right time,” she said, over lunch at an ornate cafe at Hotel Bristol in the heart of Oslo.

Bjørhovde became the first news anchor on a newly minted, once weekly program. “It was just experimenting,” she said. “It was on a very small scale.”

Now, decades later, Bjørhovde is a senior reporter at the center of a very different media landscape. She covers arts, cultural affairs and more at Aftenposten, a national newspaper she says is innovating in the world of multimedia journalism.

“Aftenposten is leading Europe in making people pay for digital news,” she said. “We have many platforms. We have made a big transition.”

And it’s an approach that’s working, counter to the narrative in many newsrooms across America. “We’re managing to get people to subscribe to our digital content,” Bjørhovde said, noting that online subscriptions recently surpassed 100,000 and are on the rise. “And, of course, they get the newspaper on their e-pads.”

So, Bjørhovde’s career nearly bookends the contemporary evolution of newspapers, starting with her training at PLU. “We didn’t even have typewriters in the classroom,” she said, laughing. “We were writing by hand. It was very last-century stuff.”

But the values she gained were timeless.

“We were encouraged to always be curious,” she said.

Bjørhovde praised PLU’s intimate classes and easy access to professors, including retired Professor Cliff Rowe, who had just started splitting his schedule between The Seattle Times and PLU around the time Bjørhovde arrived.

Rowe said she was one of his first Norwegian students. He remembers her as bubbly, outgoing and a natural at the craft.

“Her writing was just so good,” Rowe said.

Bjørhovde credits her degree, in part, to her longtime mentor. Originally, she intended to come to the United States for one year and one purpose: to study journalism. When she arrived on PLU’s campus in 1977, all the classes she planned to take were full. She needed Rowe’s approval if she had any chance of enrolling in that first news-writing class and sticking to the plan.

He granted it. Bjørhovde became one of the first Norwegian exchange students to study journalism at an American university as part of her country’s program Lånekassen, or Norwegian State Educational Loan Fund, which allocates loans and grants for college students in Norway.

“That opened totally new horizons,” she said. “Norwegian students are very fortunate to have this possibility.”

A look from the outside of the Aftenposten offices
A look inside the Aftenposten offices. (Photo by John Froschauer/PLU)

So, her yearlong agenda expanded to an extended stay, during which she earned a degree in broadcast journalism with a minor in political science.

In between academic years, Bjørhovde traveled home to work as a summer intern in Norwegian newsrooms. During her semesters at PLU, she was an active student journalist.

“I value what I learned from writing for The Mast,” she said. “I value what I learned working in the TV studio.”

She also had the opportunity to pick the brains of professional reporters, thanks to Rowe, during a tour of The Seattle Times newsroom, among other professional development opportunities.

Rowe said PLU’s journalism program was the perfect beginning to Bjørhovde’s storied career. He said the clear intersection of Norway’s values and PLU’s mission helped shape her and others into responsible, thoughtful and empathetic journalists.

“It’s a great place for her to reinforce what she already knew,” he said of Aftenposten, which translates in English to “The Evening Post” despite being a morning newspaper. “She took away an appreciation for good journalism and she had an environment back home where she could use it.”

That environment, Rowe added, is a country that touts one of the largest media readerships in the world. Norway’s government helps subsidize media outlets, an unusual approach compared to the independent press in the U.S.

Rowe admits that his initial uneasiness about that government aid has turned into appreciation. He believes Norway’s society is better for having a government that values thriving media. “It preserves newspapers all over,” he said.

Bjørhovde says the responsibility of preservation also lies with publications, including Aftenposten.

“We are in the middle of a big revolution,” she said.

As a self-proclaimed “old-school” reporter, Bjørhovde admits her preference for print. “I feel like if it hasn’t been in print, it hasn’t existed,” she quipped. “I love it when I have big stories in the paper. You can go back, you can fold it. But, of course, we are doing stories on all platforms.”

Aftenposten is doing that and then some. In addition to the web and print versions of the daily product, the company produces several magazines, podcasts, exclusive events, television and video programs, livestreamed press conferences and concerts, and more.

The company even produces Aftenposten Junior, a world-news publication geared toward children. Sometimes, Bjørhovde added, the news is produced by kids who are granted interviews with important figures such as the prime minister.

“It’s a huge success,” she said of the award-winning newspaper.

Bjørhovde writes news articles of varying depth for Aftenposten. The fall lunch at Hotel Bristol granted her a brief break from work on an in-depth piece about sexual misconduct in the acting world, spurred by the #MeToo social media movement.

“Today I’ve been on the phone with some of our most renowned actresses,” she said, including Academy Award-winner Liv Ullmann. “I have some more calls to make.”

The article, similar to the paper’s other important journalism, will hide behind a paywall to entice readers to pay for the hard work of Bjørhovde and her colleagues. She says it’s a better model than the click-based one many media outlets rely on — wishful thinking that has media owners counting on clicks translating to dollars.

“Our core readers are well educated. They’re smart, they’re interested in being enlightened about what’s going on in the world, and we are working very hard to give our readers a quality newspaper in Aftenposten,” Bjørhovde said. “But they have to pay for it.”

They are, she says, and not just for the content available to read. Readers also are attending exclusive live events, during which reporters are on stage interviewing prominent leaders and experts on various topics. Readers even purchase subscriptions to livestream classical music performances, she added. “Something as narrow as classical music,” she said, “people are willing to pay for it.”

Bjørhovde stressed the model is community-centered, not top-down, so she is involved in rolling out the new brand of journalism along with her colleagues. She said it’s more important than ever that Aftenposten and other media outlets adapt to the changing world.

“Fake news? It’s just a bunch of rubbish,” she said. “Quality journalism is very important. But we have to finance it. And that is where we have to find new ways.”

She’s confident the industry as a whole will find those new ways, and she’s sticking around to see it through.

“Journalism will not die,” she said.

Molly Ivey running in the streets in Oslo, Norway
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Attaway Lutes

All photos by John Froschauer, PLU

They traveled more than 4,500 miles from home to study away, but two women on the Pacific Lutheran University rowing team still managed to find an erg.

Molly Ivey ’20 and Kylee Dickinson ’19 couldn’t be on the water training with their teammates in the fall, but discovering the indoor rowing machine at a gym in Oslo, Norway, was a start.

“We kind of lucked out,” Ivey said halfway through her study away program. “Kylee and I both have memberships to a gym down the street.”

That’s where their observant classmates discovered the hard-to-find equipment, to the rowers’ delight, just a short distance from the Bjørknes University College campus where the pair studied international relations as well as peace and conflict studies. Throughout fall semester, they stuck to the regular workout plan sent by head rowing coach Andy Foltz.

“That’s nice because I don’t have to modify,” Ivey said.

The erg — short for ergometer — was one of the many ways Ivey stayed fit in preparation for the spring rowing season that sneaked up on her shortly after she returned to PLU in January. In addition to following the coach’s workouts, she ran around the city and lifted weights several times a week.

Despite the solid strategy, Ivey still missed working out alongside her teammates. “It’s hard knowing that you’re not doing the exact same workout,” she said. “I’m really nervous that I’m going to be out of shape.”

Being so far away, she also missed the opportunities for team bonding and camaraderie.

“Team dynamic, that’s what I miss the most,” she said at the time, adding that she especially missed the early mornings watching the sunrise over American Lake.

“It’s hard being away from that,” she said, sitting on the bed in her Oslo apartment. “The 5:30 start is death, but it’s worth it on a gorgeous day when Mount Rainier is out.”

Roughly 90 miles southwest from Oslo, Kristi Floyd ’19 dealt with similar challenges.

The PLU tennis player left her racket at home before traveling to the Bø, Telemark, campus of University College of Southeast Norway. She figured the weather wouldn’t be ideal for tennis during her fall semester away studying alpine ecology (she was right).

“I’m worried about not playing for a really long time, but I’m managing to stay in shape,” she said midway through the semester. “I’ll just have to work really hard in January.”

Despite an ocean separating her from the team, Floyd had the help of fellow PLU student Jackie Stenberg ’19.

“Jackie’s been my workout buddy,” Floyd said. “She keeps me accountable. She’s a lot better at planning workouts than I am.”

The pair did sprints and workouts at the campus track, as well as hikes and running. They also participated in some competitive sports, including handball, a popular Norwegian team sport.

“Those are always fun because it’s competitive, but not hardcore competitive,” Floyd said. “A lot of the international students play.”

Still, the workouts aren’t a replacement for the real thing, she said. “Our coach would check in on us and make sure we went to the gym so many times a week,” Floyd said. She admits that while Stenberg helps with accountability, she isn’t as strict with it as head coach Lorrie Wood.

Despite the many challenges being away from their teams, Floyd and Ivey stressed that their study away experiences were worth the sacrifices.

Ivey said her global studies major requires her to experience the world beyond campus. “That’s why I chose PLU in the first place, to study away,” she said. “I didn’t come to PLU to row.”

Her time at Bjørknes gave her new vantage points to examine academic topics, she said. “It’s a different perspective on international politics than you get in the U.S.,” she said. “We’re looking at certain issues from an outside perspective. That’s the most interesting.”

For Floyd, the Telemark program was the perfect marriage of all her interests. Growing up, her mother — who is half Norwegian and half Swedish — shared a lot of Norwegian traditions with her. She wanted to study in Norway to reconnect with those roots, and her biology-environmental studies double major lined up well with the curriculum. “It just worked out so well with everything,” she said of the program.

The cherry on top was the small town with lots of outdoor recreation opportunities. “You can walk around in a half hour,” she said of Bø, a village of nearly 6,000 people. “It’s gorgeous here. I’m not a big city person.”

Additionally, Floyd’s coach was very supportive of her desire to travel abroad: “She’s really supportive of global education.”

Three Norwegian international students studying at PLU say similar support on the Parkland campus helped with their transition. Unlike Ivey and Floyd, their study-away experience collided with their student-athlete experience as members of the men’s soccer team, which earned co-champion status in the Northwest Conference this year.

“He’s taking good care of us,” Filip Askildt ’20 said of head coach John Yorke.

Askildt and his roommate, Axel Arentz ’20, grew up together in Drammen, Norway, just outside Oslo. Ola Kvindesland ’20 is from Stavanger, a coastal city about 320 miles from the hometown of his Norwegian teammates.

Axel Arentz ’20, Filip Askildt ’20 and Ola Kvindesland ’20 relaxing on the couch
Ola Kvindesland ’20 playing soccer
Ola Kvindesland ’20 cooking a meal for Filip Askildt ’20 and Axel Arentz ’20
ABOVE, LEFT TO RIGHT: Axel Arentz ’20, Filip Askildt ’20 and Ola Kvindesland ’20 all joined the men’s soccer team upon arriving at PLU in the fall. They say the team has helped ease their transition.

All three shared similar experiences upon arriving at PLU. Among them is their difficulty with the word “soccer” — used to describe a sport they know as football.

“I make that mistake a lot,” Askildt said, laughing.

“It’s football,” Arentz quipped. “That’s what we’ve used.”

Even the Americans at the international school Kvindesland attended called it football.

Jokes aside, the three international students acknowledged the cultural differences created challenges in the beginning.

Upon arriving at PLU, all of them said they noticed the American players prioritized competition over fun. Prioritizing the latter is a key value in the Norwegian sporting world.

“Building fun around the team, that’s important,” Arentz said. “People are very serious here. It’s more fun to play when it’s not so serious.”

Askildt agreed, adding that the training also was more intense than he was used to. He suspects it may be one reason he injured his hip flexor and quad, which kept him out for the season.

Still, despite the cultural differences, all three players say the close relationships they built with their teammates helped ease homesickness and culture shock.

“The guys have taken us in with open arms,” Askildt said. “All the teammates are good friends.”

They use the differences as an opportunity to introduce the Americans to some Norwegian culture, such as teaching them Norwegian words — including some meant for exhibiting frustration on the field, one of them reluctantly admitted, without offending English-speaking referees or bystanders.

“It’s been a good experience for the Norwegians and Americans to intermix,” Kvindesland said. “It’s a clash of cultures.”

The most fun — and likely the loudest — result of the clash has morphed into a new routine. The team blasts the Russian electronic dance song “Our Feet Are Dancing Themselves” before every practice and game, sometimes multiple times, to pump up the players. They adopted the tune from their new European friends.

“It was really catchy to everyone,” Askildt said with a smile. “It became a tradition.”

Homesickness still comes up sometimes, despite their best efforts. Askildt stressed that soccer is a big reason he’s content at PLU.

“Every time I play soccer or am around the team,” he said, “I forget about home.”

Kvindesland agrees. He said it’s an indicator that, despite the differences between the Americans and the Norwegians, “we probably aren’t as different as we think.”

Students walking down a pathway surrounded by tall yellow trees in Oslo, Norway
Våre Røtter 1024 532 Kari Plog '11

Våre Røtter

Photos by John Froschauer, PLU

More than a century after Pacific Lutheran University was founded by Norwegian immigrants, the university maintains its connection to the founders’ homeland through study away programs. Students travel more than 4,500 miles to extend their interdisciplinary knowledge in big cities and small villages alike, gaining a global perspective that’s equal parts foreign and familiar. While the sites might be new, Lutes are exposed to common values that tie PLU to Norway ― both the historical and the contemporary. A ResoLute writer and photographer traveled to Norway in the fall to get a glimpse of our roots ― våre røtter ― through the eyes of students.

Kara Barkman ’19 and her fellow Lutes studied in Norway, but their footprint extended well beyond the city limits of Oslo: Amsterdam, Austria, Berlin, Bergen, Copenhagen, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Liverpool, London, Paris, Poland, Prague, Scotland, Spain, Sweden. The list of extended-weekend adventures they racked up rival travel logs of people twice their age.

“I’ve learned a lot about myself,” said Barkman, one of 10 Pacific Lutheran University students who studied away at Bjørknes University College in the fall. “This program is one of the reasons I came to PLU.”

Barkman and her classmates participated in a peace and conflict studies program, alongside Norwegian students in small classrooms that mirror PLU’s intimate teaching environment.

(Video by Rustin Dwyer and Joshua Wiersma ’18, PLU)

During one of the fall lectures, Barkman spoke up with confidence.

Instructor Cathrine Talleraas, a guest lecturer from the world-leading Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), asked students to pull from their personal experiences with immigration issues as they relate to the economy. PLU students offered examples such as the debate around immigrants’ participation in free and reduced lunch programs in the United States, as well as the prevalence of Hispanic workers in farming communities in Eastern Washington.

“Lots of times, migrants are the only ones willing to do that work,” Barkman said. Talleraas immediately tied the example back to the negative impacts Brexit has had on the labor force in the United Kingdom.

The interaction epitomizes the goal of the program at Bjørknes: to put local practitioners in front of the students and draw connections across borders.

“Everything feels so relevant,” Corinne Donohue-Mercie ’20 said of the curriculum.

Next up, the students headed to an informal brown-bag seminar ― a theoretical debate between faculty members.

Students lounged on orange couches, some snacking on their lunches, as their professors pitted optimism against pessimism. Following a spirited debate, with some humor sprinkled throughout, moderator and professor Hilde Restad announced to the room: “Who wants to tell them they’re wrong?”

“It challenges students to bring up big issues in short format,” said Claudia Berguson, associate professor of Norwegian and Nordic studies at PLU, who observed the gathering.

The seminar was another example of the teaching style emphasized at Bjørknes ― faculty immersed in a learning exchange with the students in a casual environment.

“Here everyone knows each other’s names,” Restad said. “The students can knock on our doors. We don’t really have office hours.”

Torstein Dale-Åkerlund, head of studies for the peace and conflict program, says that’s one of the ways Bjørknes resembles PLU. “Although, PLU is much bigger,” he quipped.

The college in the heart of Oslo has an enrollment of about 1,400; the program itself is even smaller, with about 150.

Part of Bjørknes’ allure is its location. Its campus is surrounded by humanitarian organizations from many walks of life, which have helped Oslo earn a reputation as a primary actor on the world stage.

“Oslo is a hub for studying what we do,” Dale-Åkerlund said. “We really try to tap into that environment.”

That means the college brings in experts in the field, including Talleraas from PRIO. And sometimes it means the faculty members are the experts.

Restad, for example, is regarded as an authority in American exceptionalism and foreign affairs, and often is called upon for national television interviews ― in Norway and the U.S. ― to discuss politics and policy.

Another professor, Henrik Syse, is a member of the Norwegian Nobel Committee. “He’s one of the few who actually decides who gets the peace prize,” Dale-Åkerlund said.

But Syse’s esteemed status doesn’t mean he is super serious.

“He’s really goofy,” Barkman said of Syse, who taught “Ethics of War and Peace” in the fall. “He’ll quote Monty Python in class. It’s a cool experience to be learning about these heavy issues and developing who you are while also being under the guidance of these really established people.”

Dale-Åkerlund says the approach prepares students for a higher level of learning.

“We really challenge our students intellectually and academically with contemporary issues related to topics that they study,” he said. “I think we have a lot to offer the students here.”

Outside the classroom, students are exposed to valuable experiences they can’t get anywhere else ― including attending the exclusive televised interview with the Nobel Peace Prize laureate at Oslo City Hall.

“We encourage our students to really use Oslo for what it is,” Dale-Åkerlund said, adding that the multicultural society offers learning experiences every time students venture out into the city. “They really get to know Oslo.”

Oslo, Norway

That begins with a so-called “crash-course” introduction when they first arrive. Students are paired with buddies who show them the ins and outs of the city, its transportation, culture and language. It lasts three to four days, and is heavy on excursions.

“The first week was a lot of just getting lost and finding our way back,” Barkman said. “I love Oslo public transportation. It’s so easy to navigate.”

Nick Brundage ’19 said that ease extended to flights across Europe. “It’s so easy (to travel), since we have so much free time,” he said of the workload at Bjørknes.

Still, he admits the downtime also offered challenges. While classwork throughout the semester is minimal, finals work weighs more heavily on grades. “It’s one big test and one big paper,” he said. “You’re not doing work in the classroom.”

While the distribution of work is different, the study away program is rigorous.

“We have high demands,” Dale-Åkerlund said. “We really want students to get the best out of the semester with us.”

The program isn’t just targeted to international relations or communication students. The curriculum pulls from many different academic disciplines.

“We are all over the humanities and the social sciences, basically,” said Restad, who taught “Terrorism and Counterterrorism” in the fall. The other classes students chose from last semester included “Introduction to Migration” and “International Political Thought.”

“We’re always revising,” Restad said of the courses offered, adding that they often shift with current events.

“The classes are fantastic,” Barkman said, emphasizing the value of her Norwegian classmates.

“They bring up wars and conflicts that I’ve never even heard of. Every day after class, I’m going back to my apartment looking up all these different conflicts,” she added. “It’s really fun to have conversations comparing America and Norway and differences in culture and politics.”

“The first week was a lot of just getting lost and finding our way back. I love Oslo public transportation. It’s so easy to navigate.”
– Kara Barkman ’19

On a more basic level, the program envelops students in what quickly becomes a second home in Oslo.

“They are always looking out for us,” Brundage said. “They really care.”

And that care, Restad says, is one of the many ways Bjørknes is an ideal fit for Lutes.

“There’s a kinship, I think.”


More than 90 miles southwest of the bustling international city, Jackie Stenberg ’19 stood on the hilltop grounds of a picturesque, centuries-old stone church, taking in a much slower side of Norway.

Growing up, Stenberg says Glacier National Park in Montana was her backyard. So, it was fitting that she decided to study alpine ecology in the rural part of a country with ties to her family history.

“It’s cool getting the heritage and the nature,” Stenberg said.

Stenberg and Kristi Floyd ’19 couldn’t stop gushing about the sweeping views of rolling hills and the endless recreational opportunities just steps from their residences in Bø, a village in the Telemark region. The college town is home to fewer than 6,000, and a walking tour of the area around University College of Southeast Norway takes less than an hour.

“Some people think it’s too small, but I love it,” Floyd said. “There are always things you can do.”

Among the activities, hiking is at the top of the list. Stenberg and Floyd said they hiked all the time; sometimes they hiked into the woods and stayed overnight.

“The first week we got to go on this really cool field trip up on a nearby mountain,” Floyd said. “We spent a week out there looking at plants and figuring out species.”

Stenberg said the trip ― an invigorating introduction to the alpine ecology program ― informed their studies throughout the semester that followed.

“We got that initial knowledge right off the bat. For the rest of the semester, in lectures, we can reflect back onto that field experience,” she said in October, midway through the program. “You can tell that the professors are passionate about their place.”

Both Lutes are double majoring in biology and environmental studies, and the alpine ecology program is the perfect marriage of the two, they said.

It’s made up of three courses: “Alpine ecology,” “Alpine Biodiversity” and “Sustainable Tourism.” In addition to the fieldwork, the students worked in labs, sometimes alongside graduate students conducting research on various alpine species. The hands-on work is ideal for active students, Floyd noted.

“It’s not like you’re bundled up in a classroom all the time,” she said. “I don’t like sitting at a desk for long periods of time. It’s nice to get out and apply things right away.”

Although the classes are taught in English, their classmates come from around the world. “I’m working with people from Norway, France, and Spain,” Floyd said. “It’s invaluable to come together with people from different places and gain new perspectives.”

The newfound international friendships included Sunday-night dinners, for which everyone made a dish from back home. They also got together to play various sports, including the Norwegian staple handball.

“It’s competitive, but still really fun,” Floyd said.

Bø, Telemark

Stephanie Reinhardt, a German professor at the Bø campus, is responsible for alpine ecology and other courses. She says the location is perfect for applying the curriculum they teach.

Norway is known for having massive alpine areas, or areas above the forest limit. “Those areas are more and more exposed to environmental impacts and human impacts,” she said.

That’s because as climate change advances, species in alpine regions can’t migrate to escape the effects.

“For the alpine species, there’s no more space for them to move upward,” Reinhardt said. “That’s the main goal of this program, to provide students insights into those challenges that alpine areas are facing.”

And the environment mirrors that of the Pacific Northwest, meaning students can often apply what they learn in Norway back home.

“Some people think it’s too small, but I love it,” Kristi Floyd ’19 said of the town. “There are always things you can do.”

Reinhardt stressed the program isn’t for the faint of heart. The introductory trip to the mountain includes a long hike hauling several days of necessities; the accommodations are simple, without water or electricity. “It’s important for the students coming here to be prepared,” she said.

But the hard work is worth it for students who value nature and sustainability, Floyd says.

“I just love Norwegian morals,” she said. “They really value the outdoors, they really value education and healthy living. They are also environmentally friendly.”

The campus in Bø also accommodates students looking at other disciplines.

Kelsey Larson ’11 studied English writing and Norwegian at PLU. She says the experience in Telemark improved her language skills and her global perspective, aiding her post-graduate success, including a stint at The Norwegian-American newspaper.

“It was intimidating, but I learned a lot,” she said. “I never would have become as advanced if I hadn’t lived there. You just don’t get the same experience taking classes in the states.”


Sitting around a table in late October at the scenic Vestfold campus of University College of Southeast Norway, all Norwegians present wore fitness trackers. The weather outside was getting colder by the day, and snow was in the forecast. Still, exercise was part of the daily routine, inside and outside the classroom.

“It’s so grounded in our bodies,” said Trine Thoresen, leader in the university’s Department of Outdoors, Sports and Physical Education. “Most Norwegians embody health promotion.”

Thoresen says that if Norwegians aren’t active, they don’t feel great. Luckily, the area offers plenty of recreation: access to woods, sailing, kayaking, a national park, the fjord and more.

In fact, getting outside is how students begin their studies in the exercise and health management program there, the newest addition to the Norway Gateway study away options offered through the Wang Center for Global Education.

“We start this course by going to the island and staying in a tent,” said Hilde Grønningsæter, another faculty member in the department. “It’s sort of an orientation.”

PLU doesn’t have students enrolled in the program ― yet. The goal is to get them there. It’s perfect for students who are physically fit and serious about movement or exercise studies, such as kinesiology, physical therapy, physical education, sports medicine, rehabilitation or nursing.


“Physical activity is the center of the study,” Grønningsæter said. “It’s the tool.”

The application deadline for PLU students interested in studying at the Vestfold campus is May 1.

Karen McConnell, associate dean of kinesiology at PLU, says the program allows students to learn from another perspective, alongside others from around the world, in a country that does a better job at health promotion.

“They are more fitness minded and health promotion is built into the culture,” McConnell said, noting that the country’s approach is very prevention-oriented. “It’s a way of life.”

The program consists of two courses, which have a dual focus: project planning centered on health promotion and practicum placement. Students work a minimum of 30 hours for about two weeks at the local prison, rehabilitation centers, schools or others sites that expose them to practical experience with various target groups. Many of them work beyond the minimum.

Thoresen says it helps students learn how to practically apply the theoretical knowledge they gain, preparing them to apply their degree after graduation. “It has a strong practical approach,” she said of the program. “The jobs aren’t always that obvious.”

Site placements happen after introduction to the curriculum, in the middle of the semester. Participants write reports following their placements as part of their exam.

“We start this course by going to the island and staying in a tent,” said Hilde Grønningsæter, a faculty member at the Vestfold campus of University College of Southeast Norway. “It’s sort of an orientation.”

Upon developing the courses, administrators in Vestfold focused on young people and unemployment throughout Europe; the courses are a work in progress. They examine, in part, how nutrition and physical activity may be used to promote employment.

“We are working to understand how health is promoted and how to change habits,” Grønningsæter said.

Norway has an incredibly strong labor market act, which regulates the relationship between employers and employees. It’s one of the many ways health promotion is institutionalized in Norwegian society, and it’s one of the foundations of the curriculum for students in the program at Vestfold ― especially their practicum placements.

“It’s important to discuss this,” Grønningsæter said. “We have a focus on what they are going to do afterward.”

Outside the classroom, students have plenty of opportunities to practice what they preach. Vestfold is small and easy to navigate, with beautiful scenery that entices visitors to explore on foot.

“You don’t need a car,” Thoresen said. “It’s easy to get around.”

McConnell said at least five PLU students are interested in the program so far. She said many of them came to the university specifically because this study away opportunity was in the works.

McConnell believes they aren’t alone.

“A lot of students are interested in outdoor recreation,” she said. “We don’t have anything parallel to that program here.”

Peace Scholars Cate Rush ’19 and Austin Beiermann ’18
Peace Scholars 1024 532 Kari Plog '11

Peace Scholars

Photo by Molly Ivey ’20, PLU

Ksenija Simic-Muller, program director of Pacific Lutheran University’s Peace Scholars program, says building peace isn’t a distant or impossible ideal. And many former Peace Scholars prove it.

“It’s something that happens between individuals and ordinary people, through dialogue,” said Cate Rush ’19, one of the most recent participants. “It’s not this lofty, abstract concept.”

Simic-Muller says Rush and her counterpart, Austin Beiermann ’18, aren’t the only Peace Scholars who returned to PLU ready to apply what they learned abroad in the seven-week program.

Ellie Lapp ’17 and Taylor Bozich ’17 used their newly acquired dialogue skills within student government, for example. Others used what they learned in student clubs and organizations, during presentations at conferences and in their activism across campus.

(Video by Rustin Dwyer, PLU)

“They all say that the dialogue skills they learned, in particular, have been beneficial to them in all their involvement on campus and in the community,” said Simic-Muller, an assistant professor of mathematics at PLU.

Each year since the program was established in 2011, two students have been selected as Peace Scholars to deepen their understanding and application of peacebuilding. The scholars travel to Norway, known as a hub for humanitarian and peace organizations. During their time abroad, they participate in an intensive, weeklong workshop at the Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue in Lillehammer. Then, they attend the Oslo International Summer School for a six-week peace studies course. They also visit a number of Norwegian peace organizations, including the Nobel Peace Prize Institute. They engage with students from all over the world in what is regarded as a life-changing experience, Simic-Muller said.

“The program really has to take place in Norway, because it is affiliated with the Nobel Peace Prize,” she said.

Because of that tie, the Peace Scholars’ networking doesn’t end in Norway. They also travel to Minneapolis in September for the Nobel Peace Prize Forum Augsburg, an annual event that welcomes Nobel laureates and other important national and international figures pivotal to the peacebuilding community.

In the fall, Beiermann and Rush were privileged to participate in high-level dialogues prior to the event. Among their many activities, the scholars facilitated a session with Mark Mulder, assistant professor of business at PLU, about the role of water in promoting peace.

“I had the opportunity to network with diplomats, elected officials, scholars, activists and people from essentially every walk of life,” Beiermann said. “I had the ability to talk with a lot of big players in the global struggle for peace and be taken seriously.”

Rush said her time abroad is hard to put into words. “Those were some of the best weeks of my life,” she said. “It was such an incredible and unique experience.”

But their peacebuilding wasn’t limited to the Midwest and Scandinavia. Rush and Beiermann brought home the skills they learned and immediately put them to use. The pair is helping plan a series of events this spring featuring John Noltner. The American photographer and peace activist will come to campus the week of March 11, visiting classes and bringing students into an interactive photography project centered on peace.

“It will expose the PLU community to what peacebuilding looks like on a personal basis,” Rush said.

Rush says PLU’s mission intersects with many core values in Norway, so the Peace Scholars program is a perfect fit for Lutes.

“There is this sense of duty, responsibility, social engagement that I really see are reflected in students at PLU, serving here and beyond,” she said.

Beiermann said those values connect people from all walks of life, from around the world. He’s grateful to have met them.

“Countries are no longer these arbitrary spaces on a globe,” he said. “They now have faces and people connected to them.”

Applications for the program are accepted each year until February; participants are selected in the spring based on their motivation and purpose, depth of understanding and intellectual curiosity of peace, as well as openness to new ideas and perspectives.

“We are looking for students who want to learn about peace and how to be agents of peace in the world,” Simic-Muller said. “There is no one trait that guarantees that a student will be selected. We are looking for a variety of perspectives and interests.”

One of Rush’s goals as a returning Peace Scholars participant is to help with that e ort, by mentoring new scholars.

Beiermann’s idea of an ideal candidate for the program is a simple one: “A successful peace scholar is a person who is willing to learn and take on other perspectives.”

iPads filled with information about peace prize recipients in Oslo, Norway
Lutes Create Unique Local Peace Prize 1024 532 Kari Plog '11

Lutes Create Unique Local Peace Prize

ABOVE: The Nobel Field is a powerful, permanent exhibition at the Nobel Peace Center museum in Oslo that beautifully displays pictures and information about all the laureates. (Photos by John Froschauer, PLU)

Two years before he founded the only local peace prize in the nation, Thomas Heavey '74 was in the middle of a war.

“I was a Coast Guard reservist,” he recalled of his deployment to Kuwait in 2003. “In the desert.”

Heavey — who was elected president of the Sons of Norway in Tacoma just before he left — couldn’t believe he was on the ground at the age of 52 aiding the Iraq invasion, the beginning of an armed conflict that eventually claimed tens of thousands of lives.

“In war there are some pretty tense times, but there’s a lot of time that isn’t,” Heavey said. “So it gives you time for reflection.”

In that time of reflection, Heavey asked himself what modern Norway would have to say to the Norwegians of Tacoma he was then tasked with leading, as well as what Norway would say to the world in the face of immense violence.

“The conclusion you come to is that Norway is the superpower for peace,” he said. “When peace is breaking out in the world, there are Norwegians involved. I left there with the idea that the Norwegians in Tacoma ought to do something about peace.”

That was the catalyst for the Greater Tacoma Peace Prize, an annual award that recognizes local peacemakers from the Tacoma-Pierce County region. Laureates are honored during a ceremony at Pacific Lutheran University each year. They are nominated by their peers and selected by the Greater Tacoma Peace Prize committee, which includes Heavey and a handful of other Lutes.

A display outside the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, Norway. (Photo by John Froschauer/PLU)
A display outside the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, Norway. (Photo by John Froschauer/PLU)

The local prize — believed to be the only one of its kind in the United States — is for everybody, Heavey said, just as the Oslo-based Nobel Peace Prize is for the world.

The 2005 founding of Tacoma’s peace prize coincided with the Puget Sound region’s centennial celebration of Norwegian independence, the anniversary of Norway’s split from its union with Sweden.

The timing was perfect, as the primary groups that comprise the local Norwegian community — PLU at the center — already were deep in discussions about how to honor their heritage. “Tom wanted to have a peace prize that would be considered a gift to the city of Tacoma from the Norwegian-American community here,” said Janet Ruud ’70, president of the organization.

And what a gift it has been. Laureates’ passion projects have included anti-nuclear advocacy, reconciliation, racial and social equity, treating underserved patients around the world and more.

This year’s laureate focuses her work on clean water and sanitation projects in rural Bolivia. Pennye Nixon is founder and director of operations for Etta Projects, an organization created in memory of her daughter, who died when she was 16 in a bus crash in Bolivia just three months into her Rotary International exchange program.

Nixon believes that quality health care and sanitation create peaceful conditions, in which stable communities can progress and grow. “Peace is the opportunity to be kind, show compassion and act to advance equality,” she said.

In addition to a medal, plaque and glass artwork created by the Hilltop Artists in Residence of Tacoma, the local laureates receive a paid trip to Oslo, Norway.

They visit world-renowned humanitarian centers, network with leaders in the peace community and attend events affiliated with the Nobel Peace Prize, including the ceremony, the concert and the live, television interview with the recipient. Oslo, a small but lively city, swells during the Nobel Peace Prize events in December.

“I was amazed at the number of Norwegian institutions that focus all their work on creating, educating, researching, negotiating and advancing peace all over the world,” Nixon said upon returning from her trip. “We had so many good, challenging, honest conversations.”

Many members of the Greater Tacoma Peace Prize say PLU is an obvious ambassador for the organization, Norway and peace itself.

Lisa Ottoson ’87, a committee member of the organization, says her alma mater’s cultural connection is grounded in history; the university was founded by Norwegian immigrant the Rev. Bjug Harstad. Beyond that, she stressed, is the institution’s mission, which focuses heavily on sustainability, care, equity and social justice — all core values in Norwegian society.

“That’s all been a part of PLU,” she said.

Greater Tacoma Peace Prize laureates 2005-present

George F. Russell, Jr.

Russell, the organization’s first laureate, was selected for his work in the realm of peace education, security and peace awareness — on both a regional and global level. His hands-on efforts include support of local gang-intervention work, a pilot program promoting peace through high school curriculum, as well as launching groups focused on resolving the global threat of loose nukes and promotion of government transparency in the former Soviet Union, among other endeavors.

Conflict Resolution, Research and Resource Institute

CRI’s mission is to teach and practice prevention, management and resolution of conflict in the community, nation and world. The mission is carried out using time-tested theories, processes and techniques that ensure equitable, practical and lasting agreements. When the organization was named the 2006 laureate, the nomination cited William Lincoln (CRI executive director) and Polly Davis (associate director) for “doing whatever it takes to restore peace in troubled regions, often accepting the risks without a fee.”

The Rev. Ron Pierre Vignec

Vignec founded the Salishan/Eastside Lutheran Mission in 1985. He was pivotal in revitalizing the Salishan neighborhood in east Tacoma, the largest federal housing project on the West Coast. Vignec’s work helped drop virtually every crime statistic in Salishan, an area once steeped in violence, drugs and prostitution.

David Corner

Corner is the founder and director of The Gathering Project, a humanitarian organization he created in 1997 after traveling to Ghana as part of a mission program there. The Gathering Project has shipped thousands of tons of goods around the world, as well as provided support for programs in North America and the Tacoma area.

The Rev. David T. Alger

Alger served nearly 30 years as executive director of Associated Ministries. His ecumenical work helped bring faith groups together to build a compassionate and just community. He’s been instrumental in the founding and development of many agencies, including Pierce County AIDS Foundation, Pierce County Dispute Resolution Center, Hilltop Action Coalition, and many more.

Kim Ebert-Colella

Ebert-Colella has done peace work in all areas of her life. Among her endeavors, she volunteers at Bryant Montessori School — a racially and socioeconomically diverse school in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood — establishing it as an International Peace Site in 2009. She established and continued to chair the Peace Committee at the school, which has helped raise money for Pennies for Peace, an organization that builds schools in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Dr. Donald Mott

Mott, a retired pediatrician and orthopedic surgeon, was instrumental in the founding of China Partners Network, which works in underserved regions of China to meet the medical needs of children with cerebral palsy and other neuromuscular disorders.

The Rev. William Bichsel

Bichsel is an anti-nuclear activist who was released from prison just before he earned the laureate title. He and four other activists had broken into the Navy’s nuclear submarine base in Bremerton, which houses one of the largest stockpiles of nuclear weapons in the country. Thomas Heavey ’74, founder of the Greater Tacoma Peace Prize, has said he isn’t comfortable with all of Bichsel’s actions. Still, Heavey acknowledges that peace can often mean afflicting the comfortable.

Sallie Shawl

Among many achievements, Shawl founded a local chapter of the international group, Jewish Voice for Peace, which promotes a U.S. foreign policy based on peace, democracy, human rights and respect for international law.

Dawn Olson Lucien and Eric Olson

Local mediator Lucien and Olson, a four-star Navy admiral and peacekeeper, were honored for being formidable advocates for nonviolent solutions to difficult conflicts — locally and internationally — for more than 40 years.

Thomas Dixon

Dixon, regarded as the voice of black Tacoma for more than 30 years, mentored two generations of black civic leaders, serving as a vital force in Tacoma’s 50-year drive for justice and diversity. The organization honored Dixon as its 2015 laureate in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Theresa Pan Hosley

Hosley was nominated for her initiative, persistence and long-term leadership of Tacoma’s Chinese Reconciliation Project Foundation. The organization named her the 2016 laureate to recognize the importance of reconciliation in peacemaking.

Pennye Nixon

Nixon is founder and director of operations for Etta Projects, an organization created in memory of her daughter, who died when she was 16 in a bus crash in Bolivia just three months into her Rotary International exchange program. Nixon believes that quality health care and sanitation create peaceful conditions, in which stable communities can progress and grow.

To be determined

The organization is now accepting nominations for the 2018 Greater Tacoma Peace Prize. The deadline to nominate is March 31, 2018. Visit for the nomination form and guidelines.

Ruud agreed, adding that PLU’s commitment to service mirrors the commitment of people in Norway, who are taught from birth that giving back is their standard way of life.

“The whole idea of educating for lives of service,” Ruud said. “It’s just part of Norway’s character.”

Lisa Ottoson ’87, a committee member of the organization, says her alma mater’s cultural connection is grounded in history; the university was founded by Norwegian immigrant the Rev. Bjug Harstad. Beyond that, she stressed, is the institution’s mission, which focuses heavily on sustainability, care, equity and social justice — all core values in Norwegian society.

“That’s all been a part of PLU,” she said.

Hedda Langemyr, director of the Oslo-based Norwegian Peace Council, says peace is a part of the fabric of Norway.

“Our society is built on openness, trust, and nice and good relations,” Langemyr said on a cold Oslo afternoon in the city center. “It’s this collective identity that we’re a nation with solidarity toward less fortunate countries. There’s a lot of goodwill and a lot of good intentions.”

Still, she noted that Norway — as with the rest of the world — is taking a close look at what it means to be peaceful and how peace is employed.

“Norway is in a position to influence and to actively take part in diplomacy and disarmament issues,” she said.

Langemyr is working to build a security think tank to connect military researchers, humanitarian organizations, politicians, journalists and many other stakeholders interested in peace work and security issues. She stressed that peace is about building bridges, and the only way to do that is with intentional, constructive dialogue: as a tool for understanding, not necessarily for pursuit of agreement.

“I think the notion of what peace is will be different from person to person,” she said. “For me it has to do a lot with discourse. It has a lot to do with creating space, where people can fight their prejudices, fight their enemies and have decent, well-intended and sober conversations about important issues and important matters.”

Hanne Aaberg says Norwegians aren’t afraid of discourse. She serves as secretary general of Norwegians Worldwide, a 110-year-old organization tasked with building and maintaining a global network of Norwegians; the organization hosts the Greater Tacoma Peace Prize laureate each year.

She stressed that without peace, freedom is impossible. “When there’s no peace, you can’t do anything,” she said, from an office overlooking the Oslo waterfront. “I think a country that has been occupied, that never really leaves you.”

It’s one reason she’s grateful to learn about the difficult and meaningful work done by Tacoma’s laureates. “We learned so much from all of them,” she said. “I think it’s very inspiring to have them here and maybe it should inspire us in Norway to think of a better way to honor people who do this (work). This is really something.”

Defining peace is an ongoing effort, Ruud and others at the Greater Tacoma Peace Prize say. “We haven’t defined it yet,” Ruud said.

Hanne Aaberg, secretary general of Norwegians Worldwide, at her waterfront offices in Oslo, Norway. (Photo by John Froschauer/PLU)
Hanne Aaberg, secretary general of Norwegians Worldwide, at her waterfront offices in Oslo, Norway. (Photo by John Froschauer/PLU)

Heavey says peace is multifaceted — from civil rights leaders to the local PTA advocating for a non-confrontational disciplinary system in elementary schools.

“Whether you’re a rich man who is able to use his influence in dollars, or a poor person who goes out and speaks truth to power,” he said, “you’re bringing peace to your community.”

And with the exchange that happens on their travels to Oslo, those diverse peacemakers expand their footprint globally.

“Whether you’re a rich man who is able to use his influence in dollars, or a poor person who goes out and speaks truth to power, you’re bringing peace to your community,” Thomas Heavey ’74 said.

Ottoson said traveling there is a key component of the prize, to build laureates’ networks. Still, the visibility back home surrounding their work is most inspiring.

Preceding a standing ovation during the fall ceremony honoring her, Nixon ended her acceptance speech with a quote from Pericles: “What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”

Nixon says the Greater Tacoma Peace Prize wasn’t for her, it was for everyone at Etta Projects. And for the world.

Ottoson said that shows her community how powerful the prize is, here and beyond.

“I’m unlikely to meet Malala (Yousafzai). I’m unlikely to meet Obama,” Ottoson said of two well-known Nobel Peace Prize recipients. “But these are now 13 people in my community that we’ve honored, which I think is spectacular.”

While the 13 laureates have made a clear difference in their community, Ottoson says there is still more work to be done — possibly more than ever before.

“I’m unlikely to meet Malala (Yousafzai). I’m unlikely to meet Obama,” Lisa Ottoson ’87 said. “But these are now 13 people in my community that we’ve honored, which I think is spectacular.”

“Its existence is even more important in today’s world than it was in 2005 when it started,” she said of the prize. “It should be held up more significantly.”

A shop owner in Oslo, Norway
Winning Hearts 1024 532 Kari Plog '11

Winning Hearts

Photos by John Froschauer, PLU
Mathilde Magga, '20

Mathilde Magga '20 speaks Norwegian more fluently than Sámi. Still, when her peers at Pacific Lutheran University ask, she tells them the latter is her first language.

“For a whole year, I didn’t have the guts to speak Sámi even though everyone spoke Sámi to me,” she recalled of her time in a Tromsø elementary school, where she learned all the subjects in the indigenous language.

Magga says her propensity for the language she struggled for years to learn is woven into her complex identity. It’s even tattooed on her right wrist.

“It says ‘Don’t forget’ in Sámi,” she said.


“They struggle,” Gazi Øzcan says of the young Norwegians who participate in the interactive exhibits at the Intercultural Museum in the Grønland neighborhood of Oslo. The Turkish museum director says it isn’t easy for them to confront their prejudices with the kind of vulnerability the space requires.

Still, as anti-immigrant and pro-nationalist attitudes bubble under the surface in a country that’s long been considered a humanitarian hub, Øzcan stresses that the stories told in his museum are more important than ever.

“We have to speak with young people about what prejudices are and what the consequences are,” he said.


Gazi Ozcan
Asta Kvitne

Unlike most middle schoolers, Asta Kvitne’s eighth-graders stick around as long as the teachers will allow them. “They stay here far too long,” Kvitne ’94 quipped. “We have to chase them out.”

The assistant principal at Haugerud School, located a short train ride from Oslo’s city center, serves students who represent 68 nationalities and at least as many languages. She says the school has near-perfect attendance for extracurricular events. Bullying is virtually non-existent.

The staff’s motto is “We win hearts.”

“To win the heart of our students is our main philosophy,” Kvitne said. “It means the most important thing is to have a good relationship. And that’s got to come from the heart.”

Magga, Øzcan and Kvitne each tell a distinct story of their experiences within Norway’s multicultural society. But they all share one common, deeply rooted truth: the desire for belonging despite difference.

Norway is home to an increasingly diverse population, much like other parts of the world where borders are less defined amid globalization and ever-changing technology.

And like other Western societies welcoming new people — and with them, new ideas — Norway is experiencing some growing pains. “Oslo is a multicultural city,” said Kvitne, who studied physical education at PLU. “This school reflects that.”

And the school is responding to it. Kvitne says Haugerud educates roughly 450 kids, many who either speak Norwegian as a second language or no Norwegian at all. Students from Turkey, Bosnia, Serbia and beyond share classrooms and subject matter. The teachers adapt their lesson plans to meet students where they’re at, to fit their individual needs.

Administrators foster a safe and inclusive environment, Kvitne said. “We work very hard at it,” she said. “That’s most important to us. You can’t be good in math or English if you aren’t happy here.”

The goodwill shows in the students. During a visit in the fall, there were lots of hugs to go around from smiling kids. Everyone, teachers included, went by first names. Kvitne suspects that’s a result of the school’s continuity; students stick with the same teacher throughout their entire time at Haugerud.

For students who don’t speak Norwegian — the primary language teachers speak in class — there is an intensive transition period, heavy on language learning. That’s especially true for newcomers, either immigrants or refugees, for which roughly 30 spots are kept open each school year.

“They need to learn Norwegian fast,” Kvitne said.

And they do. During the fall visit, many of the kids worked in small groups and one-on-one with teachers, asking questions and joking in Norwegian. If any problems arise, the school’s focus on individual care and engaged administration aims to alleviate them.

“I try to be in the classroom every day,” Kvitne said.

Those values and the school’s emphasis on care, Kvitne said, started with her education at PLU. As a former soccer player, she looked to her coach, Professor Colleen Hacker, for inspiration. Hacker taught her to focus on being her best self always, something Kvitne passes on to her students.

“That’s always something I try to live by,” she said. “These are values I learned at PLU.”

For Øzcan, people achieve their best when they critically examine their prejudices. That’s at the center of the most recent exhibition at the Intercultural Museum in Oslo. The title, which translates from Norwegian to “Typical Them,” centers on the way people label others who are different.

He said Oslo, despite being an international city, is a small place. Norway’s population as a whole is small, but its society is increasingly diverse. “We have people from all over the world here,” Øzcan said.

The interactive exhibits at the museum aim to uncover the tension that results from a clash of cultures. The most powerful one asks attendees, primarily young people, to print a picture from the internet that illustrates a prejudice they hold.

Dozens of sheets of paper, a collection of discomfort, dangle from the ceiling: a photograph of a woman in a hijab with the words “immigrants smell bad” written on it hang alongside pictures of right-wing extremists, people of color, poor people.

“They express themselves and learn this is about them,” Claudia Berguson, an associate professor at PLU, said as she thumbed through the somber art display. “It’s simple, but deep.”

Adjacent to the pictures sits a wall of doors adorned with striking labels — among them, a door labeled “hate.” Behind it, a simple red chair and headphones that spew abhorrent speech targeted at marginalized groups.

“I’ve seen the faces when people come out of this room,” Øzcan said. “They are changed.”

“I’ve seen the faces when people come out of this room,” Øzcan said. “They are changed.”

Magga says dealing with similar speech back home in Tromsø ultimately changed the way she looks at her identity even now, years after several older classmates hit her and called her names for being different.

It happened in 2011 during a contentious election, fueled by a polarizing debate around recognition of Sámi people. That year, the city council was considering a new designation for Tromsø that would have recognized it as a bilingual township, said Troy Storfjell, an associate professor at PLU who identifies as Sámi. The change, at its core, was aimed at reconciling the institutional efforts made throughout Norway’s history to undermine the language and culture of the Sámi, the only indigenous group in the country.

Sámi students Mathilde Magga '20 (right) and Elle Sina Søerensen '20 study in Magga's room at PLU in December 2017.
Sámi students Mathilde Magga '20 (right) and Elle Sina Søerensen '20 study in Magga's room at PLU in December 2017.

“We were children, so we didn’t understand the politics,” Magga said. “Children pick up what their parents talk about.”

The children who targeted Magga — in an incident she says started as a typical fight between middle-school girls — picked up negative attitudes toward their victim based on her identity as a Sámi.

“One girl said I was weak because I was Sámi,” recalled Magga, who vehemently pushed back. “They said ‘prove that you’re strong.'”

That’s when they hit her. Magga stayed silent for a long time; she feared that reporting what happened would label her weak, as they claimed. “I was scared they would be right,” she said.

The experience recently resurfaced, after a prominent politician used her story to show the error of his anti-Sámi ways and the effects those had on society — right down to the children.

“I shut it out for a very long time,” Magga said. Last year, for her final paper her senior year of high school, she reflected on that fight and another, internal one — learning and maintaining her Sámi language.

Magga is the only member of her family who speaks Sámi fluently; her mother picked up bits and pieces from her great-grandmother, despite her grandfather being forced into a boarding school and conditioned to shun his heritage.

Despite panging insecurity, Magga eventually gained the courage to speak the language more often, thanks in part to a close friend who spoke it with her constantly for years in and outside the classroom.

“I was kind of clawing my way through those seven years,” she said.

Magga is confident the struggle was worth it. “It’s a part of who you are,” she said of language. “It gets especially close to you when you know you can lose it, or someone has the power to take it away.”

She doesn’t take for granted her ability to speak Sámi: “It feels like something you should know. I almost lost it.”

And Magga is paying it forward when she can. Elle Sina Søerensen ’20, a fellow Lute who grew up with Magga in Tromsø, isn’t fluent in Sámi. But she is committed to learning more for similar reasons.

“It’s very nice having someone here who speaks Sámi, so if I want to learn and I want to practice I have someone to do that with,” said Søerensen, who also identifies as Sámi. “If we were to lose the language, after a while the culture would die out, as well.”

Søerensen says it’s challenging being Sámi at PLU, primarily because so few people know about the indigenous group. However, she enjoys having the opportunity to teach her PLU classmates about her heritage.

Mathilde Magga '20 (left) and Elle Sina Søerensen '20 speak during a panel event on Sámi National Day in the Scandinavian Cultural Center at PLU on Feb. 6. Both students are wearing their traditional Sámi garb.
Mathilde Magga '20 (left) and Elle Sina Søerensen '20 speak during a panel event on Sámi National Day in the Scandinavian Cultural Center at PLU on Feb. 6. Both students are wearing their traditional Sámi garb.

Magga and Søerensen both acknowledge that they experience microaggressions related to their Sámi background, about “how Sámi they really are” or “why they can’t get over the past.” But those obstacles don’t stop them from educating, both in Norway and at PLU.

“It’s important for people to understand what really happened,” said Søerensen, who noted that there are parallels between the experience of her people and that of Native Americans. “People are still affected by what happened many years ago.”

“The farther I go from home, the more I claim it and talk about it,” Mathilde Magga ’20 said of her Sámi roots. “I have this feeling I have to do something. It’s kind of my responsibility.”

Magga, who says family trauma is inherited through generations, embraces that task every day in her classes, most recently in her children’s literature course. She spoke up as the only indigenous voice during discussions of their assigned reading, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, a novel based on experiences of author Sherman Alexie, who is a Spokane-Coeur d’Alene tribal member.

Magga says the tale of 14-year-old Junior resonated with her, and she was troubled by the dismissive feedback from her classmates. She says it’s important to speak her truth, even when she’s thousands of miles from Tromsø.

“The farther I go from home, the more I claim it and talk about it,” Magga said of her indigenous roots. “I have this feeling I have to do something. It’s kind of my responsibility.”