Law Students Participate in North Dakota Trade Office (NDTO) Mission in Norway

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News Article

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School of Law


This summer, four UND law students took part in several Norway Trade Mission events in Oslo, Norway, sponsored by the North Dakota Trade Office (NDTO). The students – Travis Balchunas, Alex Gruchala, Gina Lambert, and Charles Pegg – attended a briefing with government officials, toured the Royal Palace, and interacted with dignitaries during a reception at the U.S. Ambassador's residence. As participants in the UND School of Law's Norway Summer Program, the law students were studying the Norwegian legal system for four weeks at the American College of Norway (ACN) in Moss, a short train ride from the capital city of Oslo. The Norway Summer Program was led by UND Law Professors Bradley Myers and Julia Ernst.

Mark Johnson, Director of International Marketing with the North Dakota Trade Office, which is located in Fargo, organized the trade mission for a delegation visiting Norway from North Dakota. Governor Jack Dalrymple led the group, which included representatives from business, government, and higher education, as well as leaders of the UND Center for Innovation such as Director Bruce Gjovig, and organizers of the Norsk Høstfest in Minot, ND, such as Executive Director Pamela Davy. The University of North Dakota was represented by Professor Paul LeBel, who has served as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs and recently returned to the UND School of Law as a member of the faculty. When Mr. Johnson learned that a group of law students from North Dakota would be studying near Oslo through UND School of Law's Norway Summer Program during the same time, he generously offered to include the law students in some of the NDTO Norway Trade Mission events.

During the morning briefing, the law students and delegation members learned about the Norwegian government, agriculture, economy, and international trade. The session included reports from officials working with the U.S. Commercial Service, the American Chamber of Commerce in Norway, the U.S. Department of State, and the U.S. Foreign Agricultural Service. Governor Dalrymple and U.S. Ambassador Barry White also provided their greetings and welcoming remarks. The students met and talked informally with the speakers and members of the delegation from North Dakota before and after the official program.

That afternoon, the Private Secretary to the King of Norway, Knut Brakstad, met the delegation at the entrance to the Royal Palace and accompanied them on a guided tour through the castle. The law students learned about how Norway's system of government – a constitutional monarchy – operates, including the roles of the king, the prime minister and the cabinet comprised of senior government ministers, who lead the country's executive branch of government. A few days before, the law students had visited the Norwegian Supreme Court and talked with Supreme Court Justice Knut Kallerud about the judicial branch of government. Additionally, they learned about the legislative branch on a tour of the Storting – the Norwegian Parliament – which was led by Member of Parliament Jon Jæger Gåsvatn, who serves on the Standing Committee on Health and Care Services. The ability of the law students to learn first-hand about the functioning of the three branches of government in Norway was one of the highlights of UND's Norway Summer Program. And although no photographs were permitted inside the Royal Palace, the UND law students had their picture taken with the King's Private Secretary in the palace courtyard after the tour. They were also photographed with Governor Jack Dalrymple and First Lady Betsy Dalrymple, as well as with the entire delegation from North Dakota.

In the evening, the law students attended a reception hosted by U.S. Ambassador Barry White at his official residence in the heart of Oslo's beautiful residential area, who welcomed each of the students individually to his home. The students witnessed the role that U.S. embassies play in promoting international trade on behalf of U.S. businesses and in attracting foreign tourists to visit the United States, helping boost the U.S. economy. The law students were also able to practice their networking and professionalism skills, which they had discussed previously in class. During the function, they had the opportunity to interact with over 70 guests, including officials from the U.S. Embassy, Norwegian business and community leaders, and luminaries who will be traveling to North Dakota to participate in the upcoming Norsk Høstfest in Minot this fall. Also in attendance were Krista Lauritzen, Administrative Director of the American College of Norway, and Becky Norvang, ACN's International Student Advisor, both of whom had been extremely helpful in enhancing the UND law students' educational experience throughout their studies in Norway, as well as Siri Blindheim, Chair of the ACN Board of Directors. The three ACN representatives were photographed with the UND law students outside the Ambassador's residence prior to the gathering.

The UND law students' participation in all of these events enabled them to observe in person the important role played by the North Dakota Trade Office in fostering business and professional relationships between people from North Dakota and people from other countries. The students also perceived how an international trade mission operates and various ways in which the interests of North Dakota businesses may be represented to potential international partners. They also gained valuable knowledge through witnessing the interactions between Norwegians and our own government at the federal level through the U.S. Embassy, at the state level through the Governor of North Dakota, and at the local level through representatives from Minot. These encounters are premier examples of the experiential learning opportunities provided to UND law students through the UND School of Law's Norway Summer Program.