Kim Foss, Tomson Hall 331

Students at St. Olaf have the opportunity to study a unique subject — Norwegian. St. Olaf is one of a few colleges and universities where students can use Norwegian to complete their world language requirement — and beyond the requirement can study in depth the language, literature, culture, and history of Norway. In addition to graduating with a major in Norwegian, St. Olaf students have many opportunities to study and travel in Norway.

The study of Norwegian opens the door to another culture and another way of viewing the world. Students develop skills in communication, research, analytical thinking, and writing that are essential to a liberal education and are useful in a wide range of careers. They learn about Norway’s role in technology, environmental awareness, social equality, and international peace initiatives. Some of the world’s best literature awaits discovery by students of Norwegian: works by authors like Ibsen, Hamsun, and Undset, as well as by writers who have not been translated into English. Norwegian also enables many students to explore their cultural heritage and encourages contact with relatives and friends in Norway.

Overview of the Major

The Norwegian major is designed for students who wish to gain advanced competency in the Norwegian language along with an understanding of Norwegian society and culture. Following foundational courses in Norwegian language, students undertake coursework in advanced language and in topics relating to culture, history, and literature to engage critically with what makes Norway and its people distinctive.

Overview of the Sámi and Critical Indigenous Studies Emphasis

The Sámi and Critical Indigenous Studies emphasis is a collaboration between the Norwegian Department, the Nordic Studies program, and the Race and Ethnic Studies program. In addition to courses in these programs, the emphasis includes courses from a variety of other programs to create a space to critically examine indigenous academic knowledge and Nordic colonialism. The emphasis provides an in-depth understanding of the historical experiences, cultural traditions and innovations, and political status of the Sámi and the interconnections among the Sámi and other indigenous peoples worldwide. 

St. Olaf College stands on the homelands of the Wahpekute Band of the Dakota Nation. We honor with gratitude the people who have stewarded the land throughout the generations and their ongoing contributions to this region. We acknowledge the ongoing injustices that we have committed against the Dakota Nation, and we wish to interrupt this legacy, beginning with acts of healing and honest storytelling about this place.

The emphasis consists of four total courses: two required foundational courses and two electives. Note that RACE 252 cannot be used for the Norwegian major.


See Academic Honors

Distinction in Norwegian should reflect a special interest in some aspect of Norwegian language and culture. A distinction paper or project may spring out of coursework but must go beyond and must incorporate some public activity, whether that be print publication, website development, oral presentation, or other public performance.

Special Programs

The Norwegian Department sponsors many speakers and activities such as the annual Christmas service and Seventeenth of May celebration and provides students with the opportunity to live in a language house with a native speaker assistant. The Norwegian-American Historical Association, a rich source of information on Norwegian immigration, is housed in Rølvaag Memorial Library. Many students choose to study in Norway on a variety of programs such as the Oslo International Summer School and the St. Olaf-sponsored programs in Norway. Norwegian professors also participate in the Language Across the Curriculum (LAC) program, collaborating with disciplinary professors to offer students the opportunity to use their world language skills in selected courses in other departments.