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Thirteen students, two faculty and one director from SOU visited the Nordic capitals of Helsinki, Stockholm, Copenhagen and Oslo over the summer in another iteration of SOU’s Democracy Project. Students traveling with this year’s project came from a wide variety of majors: Computer Science, Environmental Science and Policy, Education and Holistic Education, Political Science, Sociology and Anthropology, Music Education, Digital Cinema, Nursing, Theater, and Sustainability and Sustainability Leadership.
The Democracy Project is designed to take students, faculty, staff and community members from a wide range of specialties and majors to locations around the world to study exemplary democratic practices, and then bring what we learn back to SOU and the Rogue Valley. Previous trips included visits to Washington, D.C., India, Germany and Central Europe, South Africa, and Italy and Greece. The Democracy Project will visit India again during the upcoming summer of 2024. Students from SOU from any major, faculty, administrators and community members at large are invited to participate.
The Democracy Project will visit India again during the upcoming summer of 2024. Students from SOU from any major, faculty, administrators, and community members at large are invited to participate.
The goal of the Democracy Project is not to replace one form of democracy with another. Rather, the purpose is to understand and learn the nuances and complexities of how different democracies work around the world. By visiting and engaging with various institutions, including academic, civic, social and governmental institutions, Democracy Project participants gain information and knowledge of how a wide of variety of contributing factors shape democracies within specific global contexts.
The themes studied on the recent trip to the four Nordic countries of Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway were universal healthcare, the cradle-to-grave approach to social welfare, the environment and sustainability, global foundations that research democracy and that sponsor international understanding and peace, educational systems, the Fulbright program and volunteerism within civil society.
While traveling, we visited with experts in healthcare management in the U.S. and abroad, graduate students studying sustainability at Aalto University in Finland, a professor of immigration and integration at Södertörn University in Sweden, the Fulbright Commission Office and International IDEA (Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance) in Stockholm, high school teachers in Copenhagen and Rotary International members in Stockholm and Oslo. Highlights of the trip also included visiting the sites where the Nobel Prize and Nobel Peace Prize banquets are held each year, the very Nordic tradition of the Sauna and a dip in the refreshing Oslo Fjord, overnight ferries across the Baltic Sea, and enjoying the cultural sights and food in each country.
“It was so surreal to feel the world open up. I was humbled by how much more there is to see and learn.”
As always, the trip was a transformative experience for students.
“The SOU Democracy Project trip to Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway gave me the opportunity to expand my mindset about international relations and the importance of community involvement in government work and in sustaining democracies,” said Sierra Garrett, Honors Scholar and Sustainability/Sustainability Leadership student. “Our small but mighty group is coming back with a unique perspective that has been missing from much of the current discussions about how to fix our ever-changing democracy. We can’t wait to share what we’ve learned!”
Milo McAllister, Honors Scholar and Theater major, received a diversity scholarship from EF to help offset the cost of travel.
“Visiting the Nordic countries was an experience that completely changed my perspective,” Milo said. “I came back to the States with the travel bug. Now all I want to do is explore and immerse myself in different cultures all over the world. It was so surreal to feel the world open up. I was humbled by how much more there is to see and learn.”
The project this year was supported through funding and in-kind contributions from the SOU Honors College, Sid and Karen DeBoer’s Honors College Fund, SOU’s Department of Philosophy, the Friends of Philosophy, the SOU Institute for Applied Sustainability, SOU President Rick Bailey, the Fulbright Commission of Sweden, Södertörn University in Sweden, the Rotary Club of Ashland, Steven H. Nelson.