Model for the 21st Century

Minneapolis Honorary Consulate sets a new precedent

By Leslee Lane Hoyum
Norwegian American Weekly

Staff at the Minneapolis Honorary Consulate include: Honorary Consul General Walter Mondale, Consular Officer Christine Carleton, Director of Education and Research Ellen Ewald, Honorary Consul Gary Gandrud, and Director of Business and Innovation Anders Davidson. Not pictured is Pastor Anne Løyning. Photo Credit: Jeff Mueller.

Staff at the Minneapolis Honorary Consulate include: Honorary Consul General Walter Mondale, Consular Officer Christine Carleton, Director of Education and Research Ellen Ewald, Honorary Consul Gary Gandrud, and Director of Business and Innovation Anders Davidson. Not pictured is Pastor Anne Løyning. Photo Credit: Jeff Mueller.

The Minneapolis Royal Norwegian Consulate closed on July 31, 2008; the Honorary Consulate opened Aug. 1, 2008. According to Honorary Consul General Walter Mondale, there never was any doubt that the Norwegian government would continue a presence in Minneapolis due, in part, to the unrelenting requests from Upper Midwest Norwegians for an ongoing consular presence.

The Norwegian government was quick to appoint former U.S. Vice President Walter Mondale as honorary consul general and well-known Minneapolis attorney Gary Gandrud as honorary consul. Together they worked with His Excellency Wegger Chr. Strømmen, Norwegian Ambassador to the United States, to carve out a model Honorary Consulate for the 21st Century, one that may be used worldwide in the future.

At the January 2009 Annual Meeting of the Upper Midwest Chapter of the Norwegian American Chamber of Commerce, members met the Honorary Consulate staff that now serve Norwegian and Norwegian-American needs in the Midwest, including general information, education and business opportunities.

Anders Davidson is the director of business development and innovation. “Norway is a leader in innovation,” Davidson said, “especially in the life sciences, and in green, information and energy technologies. There is no doubt this innovation parallels that of Minnesota and the Upper Midwest.

“Our idea is to identify opportunities on which we (Norway and the U.S.) can work together.” Davidson went on to say that this is the way we can keep the ties between Norway and the U.S. alive. “The relationship is no longer just cultural,” Davidson said. “It’s more than that.

“Norway has a tendency to look to our East and West Coasts for business opportunities and we need to share with them the opportunities that exist in the Midwest. We will also help business here work with Norwegian companies.”

Davidson is a graduate of St. Olaf College and earned his Master’s of Business Administration at the Carlson School of Management. He worked for Microsoft, Seattle, Wash., as a Product manager, and most recently as a Business Development Manager at 3M, St. Paul, Minn. He was raised in Salinas, Calif., and has family roots in St. Paul and Freeborn County, Minn.

“It’s vital that we strengthen exchange and networking in research and education between the United States and Norway,” said Ellen Ewald, the Honorary Consulate’s new director of education and research.  “Young people studying abroad learn a lot about people, which adds a new dimension to their lives. They build phenomenal networks that will be useful throughout life.

“Our focus is to increase the number of Americans studying in Norway as well as the number of Norwegians studying in the U.S., educational exchange is vital.” Ewald emphasized that the challenge does not end there. She will also focus on greater cooperation between Norwegian and American researchers and professors.

Ewald is a Minnesotan who attended Lindberg High School in Hopkins and received her undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota. She did her graduate work at the University of Bergen, Norway, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She has lived in Norway for more than 20 years and has spent much of her career in information technology, mostly recently working on a start-up telecommunications project in Uganda.

Another new, energetic and vital addition to the Honorary Consulate is Christine Carleton, the consular officer. “Our work is to continue the efforts of the career consulate, but as a new model,” said Carleton. She will handle a variety of duties, including passport matters, Norwegian health and retirement checks, citizenship issues, work permits for use in Norway, translation work, family reunification, Schengen visa guidelines and the office’s finances.

Carleton received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, and earned credits toward a Masters in Ethnic Studies with Minnesota State University, Mankato. She also studied in Paris, Italy and Brazil. She most recently worked as a special projects manager and communications coordinator for the Greater Fargo/Moorhead Economic Development Corporation and also has served as international marketing and event coordinator for the U.S. Department of Commerce, Minneapolis, and as an intern at the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Tirana, Albania.

There also is a fourth position housed at the Honorary Consulate. Anne Løyning is a pastor serving Norwegian students in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The position is associated with the Norwegian Seaman’s Church, which has five similar positions: three in Europe, one in Australia and one in North America. Pastor Løyning counsels students, works with them in times of crisis and celebration, and also conducts weddings and worship services.

The model Honorary Consulate brings new energy to the Midwest’s Norwegian community, including new rules, new people, new processes, and new ways of thinking as it seeks to maintain the area’s close ties to what was once referred to as the “Old Country.” For more information, go to: www.norway.org/minneapolis/

This article was originally published in the Norwegian American Weekly. To find out more and how to subscribe, call us toll-free at (800) 305-0217 or email us at naw@norway.com

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