Rider students enhance global awareness by engaging in Nobel Peace Prize

By Christina Natoli

Students were put up to the challenge of choosing nominees for the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize during a special topics course in spring 2021.

The course taught by political science professor Roberta Fiske-Rusciano, titled Student Model Nobel Peace Prize: Research on Social Justice Issues and Recent Activism (GLS 295), met biweekly on Tuesdays over Zoom, with Rider students and Thursdays with students from Notre Dame University in Lebanon.

Through a carefully analyzed and highly selective process, this worldwide collaboration culminated with the election of a singular candidate for the Norwegian Nobel Committee to examine for possible selection.

“Brainstorming and persuasion was crucial, but students also had to get to know each other culturally. I watched as they increased their skills in listening and negotiating, and they made some friends as well,” said Fiske-Rusciano.

Students studied Lebanese history, social justice theories and previous Nobel winners’ values. Additionally, they exercised powers of coercion and listening to reach a conclusion that students from multiple backgrounds could accept.

Suhriti Sarangal, a senior psychology major said, “I looked for various qualities while selecting my candidate such as field(s) of work, the scale of impact, number of active years, their stand on other important issues, to name a few. I wanted to make sure that my candidate had a large-scale impact on the world; a candidate that did not work with only a specific group of people or country. Along with that, I wanted to select a candidate that had shown a lifelong devotion to their work and went above and beyond to bring their message forward to the whole world while creating a large-scale impact… I wanted a candidate who was working for the whole world.”

Ultimately, cooperation led the students from both countries to civilly agree upon one candidate. They determined the candidate based on present issues and the candidate’s ability to combat those issues.

When asked about her experience in the course, Sarangal enthusiastically said, “The course has been a once in a lifetime experience for me. I not only got to speak with Dr. Asle Toje, who is a member of the Nobel Committee but also got an invite to attend the Nobel Prize Ceremony. I wouldn’t exchange this experience for anything.”

Nobel Week will occur in Oslo, Norway from Dec. 6 through 12, though COVID-19 restrictions prevent the invited students from attending. The class cannot currently announce their nomination while the selection process occurs, but the students and faculty expressed their enthusiasm for the ceremony regardless.

Fiske-Rusciano has big plans for the course and hopes it can find more permanence within the course roster. She feels that “through learning about social justice issues around the world, students become engrossed in what is going on around the world. They are not powerless, that’s a powerful lesson for undergraduate students.”

Fiske-Rusciano has experience teaching global studies, political science, multicultural studies and gender studies. For her; she feels educating young people on their ability to make change is quintessential.

Fiske-Rusciano said, “students take a look at gigantic issues and think ‘I can’t do anything about it.’ Groups will prefer students don’t vote, and they make it difficult for them to exercise their voices. I believe this course allows students to learn basic lessons that you have a certain power and skill, that part of your heart can be dedicated to people around the world. That’s not easy to squash down; once that lesson is inside you, you can grab onto it and learn how to nurture that part of yourself.”

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