Dr. Sylvia Munsen, the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Endowed Chair for Elementary Arts Education, has been awarded the Medal of St. Olav by King Harald of Norway. This medal was instituted in 1939 by King Haakon VII. It is one of the highest recognitions in that country that can be given to a foreigner.
“I was really humbled,” she said. Dr. Munsen is proud that she is 100 percent Norwegian-American. She was born in the Norwegian community of Story City, Iowa, was raised eating traditional Norwegian foods and singing Norwegian carols and folks songs with her Grandma Anna. She attended St. Olaf College, founded by Norwegian-Americans.
The Medal of St. Olav recognizes its recipients for advancing knowledge of Norway and connecting expatriate Norwegians, their descendants and their country of residence. Dr. Munsen was given the award for her work with the Norway International Student Teaching Program she created in the Kvinnherad Schools in 2001, her work with children’s choirs, and her publications, including Cooking the Norwegian Way.
Her current work with the Norway International Student Teaching Program has made Norway more than an ancestral home. Now it is a place where she exchanges ideas with contemporary colleagues.
She loves what she does. “That I get a medal for it is just remarkable.”
Dr. Munsen is a professor in the School of Teacher Education and Leadership at Utah State University. The Sorenson Endowment that brought her to USU provides training in the integration of the arts into the core curriculum. She has used her heritage to add a layer of culture to her work.
Dr. Munsen’s connection with Norway has paved the way for Utah State University students to receive training there, giving them broader experience. Though she created the student teaching program while at Iowa State, it is now a collaborative program including USU student teachers.
What’s more, her work as artistic director of the Cache Children’s Choir advances her mission of bringing the arts to the schools. Dr. Munsen has been involved in several children's choirs programs throughout her career, and all of them have performed Norwegian carols and folk songs, many of which she has arranged.
Munsen will receive the medal in a ceremony sponsored by the Royal Norwegian Honorary Consulate General in Minneapolis on April 27. Asbjørn Skår and Stein Elling Schille, administrators in the Kvinnherad Schools who nominated her for the award, will present the medal. She plans to meet King Harald personally next November, in Norway.