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Laird Essay Contest winners announced

Monday, May 02, 2016

LAWRENCE — The Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies (CREES) has announced that this year’s Roy D. and Betty Laird Essay Contest winners, who will present their work at a Brown Bag Lecture at noon Tuesday, May 3, in 318 Bailey Hall.

The winners are Travis Toon, master's degree student in global & international studies, for his essay titled “Kosovo in Crisis: Caught between The Snake and the Zajednica,” and Ashlie Koehn, a senior majoring in economics and global & international studies, and minoring in environmental studies, for her essay, “Imperial Style, Comrade Couture, and the New Frontier Russian Fashion.”

Now in its 22nd year, the annual essay contest is named after the late Roy Laird, a longtime member of the Russian and East European studies (REES) and political science faculties, and Betty Laird, whose support makes this prize possible. In honor of the award’s 20th anniversary in 2014, the Laird Essay competition was split into two categories: undergraduate and graduate.

A committee of three REES faculty read and independently rated the anonymous essays submitted for the contest. According to CREES Director, Vitaly Chernetsky, Toon’s essay was an “insightful exploration of Kosovo’s contemporary political landscape as it struggles to find its way in a unified Europe that is increasingly critical of Kosovo’s policies toward its Serbian minority.”

Koehn’s essay was “an examination of clothing styles in Russian society, from the time of Peter the Great to today, and what that can tell us about Russia’s evolving relationship with the West.”

As the graduate recipient of the award, Toon receives a $500 award and a book budget of $75. Koehn, the undergraduate recipient, receives a $250 award. Both essays will be published on the CREES website in addition to Tuesday's presentation.

Toon is a native of Irvine, California. He received his bachelor's degree in history from Ottawa University, Ottawa. For his graduate program, he researches American foreign policy and strategy in the former Yugoslavia.

Koehn, who will graduate in May 2016, has been named both a Truman and Udall Scholar. She has studied abroad three times, including the 2014/15 academic year in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, as a Boren and Gilman Russian scholar. Her KU accolades include the University Award, Woman of Distinction, Hall Center Scholar and Global Scholar. She formerly served in the Kansas Air National Guard and in 2013 was named the Kansas Air National Guard Airman of the Year. This summer, Koehn will be interning in Washington, D.C., for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representatives while participating in the Truman Summer Institute. ​

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