Pacific Lutheran University’s 2015 Peace Scholars, juniors Ellie Lapp and Taylor Bozich had quite the summer.
As part of the Peace Scholars Program, they went to Norway and took peace-building classes with students from all over the world. Inspired by this life-changing experience, Lapp and Bozich are now working to strengthen peace-building within the Lute community.
Mast Media: In your own words, define what it means to be a Peace Scholar.
Lapp: “Being a Peace Scholar means learning the theory and practices involved in peacebuilding. This includes dialogue, theory, and international relations. We learn all sorts of things about peacebuilding in the classes that we take in Norway, but we also practice peacebuilding by meeting students from around the world and having dialogue sessions with students from the Balkans, who experienced ethnic conflict and war, and the Ukraine. It’s a lot academically about what peace-building is, and also being able to practice that in real life.”
Bozich: “I think it means to pursue peace in everyday life, to be at peace with yourself and to work to attain peaceful situations. I think to be a Peace Scholar means to pursue peace for the sake of others and for the sake of the world. And I say this with all the humility in the world, because I don’t think I actually am a Peace Scholar, just a person very passionate about peace.”
MM: What inspired you to apply for the Peace Scholars Program?
Lapp: “PLU joined the Peace Scholars Program around the same time that I was applying to PLU and learning about the program. One person I got into contact with during my first year was Anna McCracken, who became a Peace Scholar that year. So I was in contact with her about the program before I even came to PLU. I knew it was something I wanted to do. There were a lot of factors, but it’s something I’d always wanted to do.”
Bozich: “I took an anthropology class my first year and learned a lot about the anthropologist Paul Farmer, who is truly my biggest hero right now. He’s done a lot of fantastic development work against structural violence. He shows us how to interact with people from all over the world, creating positive change without forsaking other cultures, traditions and people. Also, my own life experiences led me to apply. I’ve dealt with a lot of structural violence in my life, and I’ve seen that in public health. Peace-building is a passion of mine.”
MM: What was your experience in Norway like?
Lapp: “The really cool thing about program is that we are in Norway, but we go to an international summer school at the University of Oslo. There were about 500 students from 89 different countries. All of my classes had people from all over the world in them. We were in Norway learning about current events and policies with that global context. Just being in Norway was absolutely amazing. Also, the food was awesome. They have the best ice cream in Norway.”
Bozich: “There were two components. We spent a week at the Nansen Dialogue Center in Lillehammer, Norway. We were with about 20 students from the Balkan region. We got to see peacebuilding and dialogue happen between these students. We would have students from Serbia talk with students from Croatia. These are groups of people that really hate each other, so seeing young students talk about these things with each other was very powerful. Then we transitioned to the summer school portion in Oslo, where we studied the theory of peacebuilding and the history behind that. I did a group project with students from Russia, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan. It was amazing.”
MM: How has the Peace Scholars Program influenced your perceptions of the world?
Bozich: “It made me understand the importance of getting multiple narratives. It changed the way that I think and dialogue with people. One of the most amazing things I got to witness was at the Nansen Dialogue Centre. Four Ukrainian students were asked what was going on in their country, but they all had a different version. They started arguing and getting very passionate about what was happening to their country for about two to three hours. But at the end, they were able to agree on some aspects. After that, American students were able to give their perspective of what we think is happening and students from former Yugoslavia gave their perspectives on what they think is happening. It took a room of 40 people to understand what maybe is going on there.”
MM: How does being a Peace Scholar affect your future plans?
Lapp: “This program has given me amazing opportunities to think about future ideas for research and grad school. I’ve always wanted to go to grad school, but I’d only focused on schools in the United States. Now I know about the University of Oslo, and universities in Sweden and Denmark, which have amazing programs in peace and anthropology. It’s opened up a lot of opportunities for me.”
Bozich: “Before the program, I had every intention of applying to medical school this year. I was going to go to medical school, see where that took me, and do something with global health. Now, I’m not so sure about that. I’m still planning on applying to medical school, but I want to get a master’s in public health for sure. I’m also considering ditching all my plans and applying for the Fulbright Program. Teaching English abroad, doing research abroad. Bottom line: I’m not so sure. It kind of jumbled everything up. Which is a good thing. The Peace Scholars Program made me think a lot.”
MM: How do you hope your experience as a Peace Scholar will affect PLU?
Lapp: “This year, I hope that Taylor and I can revive the Network for Peacebuilding and Conflict Management. We want to build up this group and find a core of people who are interested in peacebuilding. We’re planning on having speakers here and doing some programming when they award the Nobel Peace Prize. Hopefully, we can bring some meaningful events and conversations back to campus.”
Bozich: “Ellie and I hope to do as much outreach and advocacy as we can. We want to bring students together in dialogue and get them engaged in that topic. A lot of people see it as a lofty thing. We want them to see that peace-building is a very practical, very important field of study that complements every single vocation. We’re hoping to bring Steinar Bryn, who is the leader of the Nansen Dialogue Center, to PLU. He’s an amazing man. He’s helped with a lot of conflict resolution in former Yugoslavia. We want to make peace and dialogue a bigger part of the conversation here at PLU.”