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Meyer delivers Gjerset Lecture

Visiting Assistant Professor of Scandinavian studies Andy Meyer gives lecture on his years as a Fulbright Roving Scholar.

Visiting Assistant Professor of Scandinavian studies Andy Meyer gives lecture on his years as a Fulbright Roving Scholar.

Olivia Enquist (‘19) | Chips

Olivia Enquist (‘19) | Chips

Visiting Assistant Professor of Scandinavian studies Andy Meyer gives lecture on his years as a Fulbright Roving Scholar.

Olivia Enquist, Staff Writer

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Visiting Assistant Professor of Scandinavian studies Andy Meyer gave the Gjerset lecture with a presentation titled “The Milk Route and Other Habits of Mind” on April 11. The lecture focused on Meyer’s year as a Fulbright Roving Scholar in Norway and was sponsored by the modern languages, literatures, and linguistics departments along with the Nordic studies program and the Gjerset Endowment.

This Gjerset lecture marks the eighth annual event in the lecture series honoring former Luther Professor of History and Norwegian Knut Gjerset. Gjerset served in this role from 1902 to 1934 and also worked as the curator of the collection that became the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum. He also held the titles Knight of the First Class of St. Olav from the Norwegian Government, and Knight of the Icelandic Order of the Falcon from King Christian X of Iceland.

Meyer began the lecture by framing his experience as a Fulbright scholar through the metaphor of the Norwegian “milk route.” The term comes from the airport system used to travel across Norway, which is often seen as labor intensive and inefficient. Traveling using this method requires frequent stops to pick up passengers or change planes. Meyer used the milk route system to connect his seemingly unrelated experiences in the country and highlighted the term as a reflection of Norway’s welfare state.

“The idea of the milk route struck me,” Meyer said. “It’s an interesting way to metaphorize the distribution of resources: the idea that a fully functional welfare state can distribute resources pretty evenly across an entire country but that it’s also sometimes resource intensive and inefficient. That metaphor is representative of how it works.”

As a Fulbright Roving Scholar, Meyer presented lectures and workshops on different aspects of American culture to Norwegians. He visited 61 different schools, 19 counties, and one territory during his time abroad. Meyer explained aspects about the Norwegian schooling system and its differences with the American education system. Through anecdotal stories about working with educators and students, Meyer explored the myth of the “typisk norsk” or the typical Norwegian. He explained that while Norwegian Americans often view Norway as an ethnically homogenous area, the country is rapidly diversifying both ethnically and culturally.

“Norway is changing,” Meyer said. “Norway sometimes fails culturally to accept some of those differences, but they are also succeeding in other ways. They really are learning from our mistakes. They are watching some of the ways that we have failed to address racism and inequality. They do pretty well at setting up the structures, even if they have exactly the same kind of everyday racism that permeates our culture.”

Attendee Libby Fischer (‘19)  appreciated the explanation of Norwegian educational policy.

“I thought it was especially interesting how much time he spent in Norwegian schools,” Fischer said. “I am in the Paideia 450 about making decisions in U.S. schools. Hearing about their educational policy versus ours was really interesting.”

One of Meyer’s other points concerned racial diversity in America specifically including the history of the Black Lives Matter movement. Meyer noted in his presentation that Norwegian educators often appreciate an American perspective when discussing the topic of diversity. Attendee Aaron Shouse (‘18) liked this part of the lecture as he was surprised to hear about the history of diversity in Norway.     

“I thought it was very eye-opening to see what Norwegians thought of America, especially when it came to the Black Lives Matter movement and the topic of race,” Shouse said. “I had no idea that teachers felt they were not equipped to talk about the subject because of their culture and history with Nazi Germany during World War Two.”

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