In the fall of 2008, Norway’s long-established presence in Minneapolis went through a significant transformation. The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs had to reallocate resources as consular needs of Norwegians abroad have geographically shifted over the years. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs wished to establish a more modern platform for collaboration between the Midwest and Norway - enabling increased collaboration in prioritized areas such as research, higher education, innovation, and business development. “We have such an extraordinary common ground for meeting contemporary challenges: our history and heritage, our ties of friendship, our exchanges of students and experts, our willingness to cooperate and - not least – our determination to find solutions. A good understanding. A common ground,” said Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre in a speech at The Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs in Minneapolis.
Innnovative discussions across the Atlantic paved the way for the creation of a completely new model of what a Norwegian foreign mission could look like. “Traditionally, Consulates have either been completely honorary, or staffed with foreign service personnel,” Ambassador Wegger Chr. Strommen stated. “We developed a model we had never tried before: A hybrid foreign mission headed up by an Honorary Consul General and Honorary Consul, and with a staff of three full-time Norwegian Americans, each with specific purposes and tasks and located in the heartland of America.”
At the Norwegian Honorary Consulate in Minneapolis, Anders Davidson is Director of Innovation and Business Development, Ellen Ewald is Director of Higher Education and Research, and Christina Carleton is Consular Officer handing all consular affairs.
To glue things together, Honorary Consul Gary Gandrud, a graduate of St. Olaf College, and former Attorney General for Bloomington, Minn., organizes daily operations and assists the staff in completing their missions in education, research, consular affairs, business, and innovation.
Davidson works closely with Innovation Norway, SINTEF and the Research Council of Norway. He assists Norwegian companies in the medical technologies, software, clean tech, food sciences, and oil and gas segments identify and pursue business opportunities. He works closely with Innovation Norway to educate Norwegian Enhanced Oil Recovery technology companies about the opportunities in the Bakken Oil formation in North Dakota. Davidson also works with Norwegian medical technology and clean tech firms to identify potential financing, talent and business partnerships.
Ellen Ewald works with the University of Tromsø to establish institutional agreements and promote student and research exchanges with the Midwest colleges affiliated with NALA (Norwegian American Learning Alliance), St Thomas University, University of Minnesota and University of Wisconsin. She has worked with Akershus University College in Norway to promote institutional agreements and exchanges in the field of “Energy and Environmental Studies” including the University of Minnesota and University of North Dakota. She also works with the Nobel Peace Prize Forum committee to promote Norway as the ‘go-to-place’ in educational exchange, and increasing U.S. awareness of the history of the Nobel Peace Prize and peace studies at Augsburg College, Augustana College, Concordia College, Luther College, and St. Olaf College.
One year one year with the new Consulate team, Gandrud sums up the results: “We got the right people hired, and got the new office up to speed,” he said. “And the Norwegian-American community is pleased. We have not received a single complaint about the operation compared to how it was before.”
Honorary Consul General Mondale and Honorary Consul Gandrud have attended hundreds of events and delivered countless speeches to strengthen US-Norwegian ties. Gandrud finds it important to engage young people: “I spend time on selling Norway to the iPod generation, and reaching out through education and research collaboration, business, and innovation.”
With both sides of the family hailing from Hallingdal, Norway, Honorary Consul Gandrud believes his Norwegian heritage is an important part of him: “Talking about today's Norway is what will keep coming generations having appreciation of the heritage that we have. Today's Norway has so much to offer them.”