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Chris McKitterick
Director of Center for the Study of Science Fiction

Pulitzer Prize winner to present Richard W. Gunn Lecture

Thu, 10/24/2013

LAWRENCE — Pulitzer Prize-winning critic and Washington Post columnist Michael Dirda will present the Richard W. Gunn Memorial Lecture, “A Literary Life: Twenty-Five Years at the Washington Post Book World,” from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 29, in the Big 12 Room of the Kansas Union.

Dirda joined the staff of The Washington Post as an assistant editor of book reviews in 1978. In those days, The Post still used typewriters, six-ply paper and linotype machines, and was riding high in the wake of Watergate. During his lecture, Dirda will talk about literary journalism then and now, life at a great newspaper, some of the writers he has come to know and the ongoing evolution of books and publishing.

Dirda is the author of the memoir “An Open Book” and of four collections of essays: “Readings,” “Bound to Please,” “Book by Book” and “Classics for Pleasure.” His latest book, “On Conan Doyle,” received the 2012 Edgar Allan Poe Award for nonfiction from the Mystery Writers of America. A Fulbright Fellowship recipient, Dirda graduated with highest honors in English from Oberlin College and earned a doctorate in comparative literature from Cornell University.

The Gunn Lecture is endowed by Richard W. Gunn, brother of James Gunn, KU professor emeritus of English and director of the Center for the Study of Science Fiction. Although the lecture series has also sponsored speakers on Shakespeare and Ralph Ellison, it often brings distinguished science-fiction scholars to campus, beginning with scholar Fredric Jameson, William A. Lane Professor at Duke University; and with Bill Brown, Edgar Carson Waller Professor at the University of Chicago; China Miéville, British author of what has become known as the New Weird; and Nöel Sturgeon, Theodore Sturgeon's daughter and trustee of his literary estate, and professor of critical cultures, gender and race studies at Washington State University, and juror for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award.

The Center also recently co-sponsored a visit from Michael Chabon, prize-winning author and editor.

The Center is associated with the Department of English in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The College encourages learning without boundaries in its more than 50 departments, programs and centers. Curriculum in the College emphasizes interdisciplinary education, global awareness and experiential learning. The College is KU's broadest, most diverse academic unit.



Wanna Skype? Chancellor gets creative to surprise Truman winner. See it here: http://bit.ly/1awodaa
Rock Chalk! Junior Ashlie Koehn named KU's 18th Truman Scholar
Ashlie Koehn, a University of Kansas junior from Burns studying in Kyrgyzstan, interrupted helping her host family prepare dinner to make a Skype call on Monday evening.

.@NYTimes columnist @WCRhoden will speak at a symposium about race and sports April 23. http://t.co/UiKA9MYNv0 http://t.co/PHwCOHqcfD
Wanna Skype? Chancellor gets creative to surprise Truman winner From KU News Service: http://bit.ly/1awodaa Ashlie Koehn, a University of Kansas junior from Burns studying in Kyrgyzstan, interrupted helping her host family prepare dinner to make a Skype call on Monday evening. To her surprise, Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little was on the other end of the call letting Koehn know she had been named a 2015 Harry S. Truman Scholar. Koehn is the 18th KU student to be named a Truman Scholar and the only 2015 recipient from the state of Kansas. Earlier this month, she was also named a 2015 Udall Scholar. And in spite of a distance of more than 10,800 kilometers and 11 time zones, Koehn’s thrill from hearing the news from the chancellor came through loud and clear. “Ashlie’s experience at KU epitomizes a quality undergraduate experience. She challenged herself in her coursework, exposed herself to different research opportunities, studied abroad in Germany, Switzerland and Kyrgyzstan, and participated in both student government and community service projects,” Gray-Little said. “This is quite a year for Ashlie. Her hard work is a wonderful reflection on her and also a great reflection on the university, and we all congratulate her.” Each new Truman Scholar receives up to $30,000 for graduate study. Scholars also receive priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some premier graduate institutions, leadership training, career and graduate school counseling, and special internship opportunities within the federal government. Koehn, a member of KU’s nationally recognized University Honors Program, is majoring in environmental studies, economics and international studies. Her goal after earning her KU degree is to pursue a master’s degree in economics at either the London School of Economics or the University of Reading, with a focus on the economics of climate change. In 2014, she received KU’s Newman Civic Engagement Award for her work establishing the Coalition against Slavery and Trafficking. Her involvement with the issue was sparked by Hannah Britton, associate professor of political science and women, gender, and sexuality studies, who hosted national conference on contemporary slavery at KU three years ago. “Ashlie and I met several times to think about what KU students could contribute to the issue of slavery and human trafficking, and the result was her founding of KU CAST,” Britton said. “After a year as president, Ashlie successfully handed the organization over to the next student leader. She demonstrated her strong leadership qualities by setting a unique goal and then pursuing it with her sense of passion, engagement and dedication. No matter the country or context, her leadership strength is evident in her coursework, her public service and her work experiences.” The University Honors Program works with a campus committee to select KU’s nominees for the Truman Scholarship and supports them during the application process. Anne Wallen, assistant director of national fellowships and scholarships, noted it was an amazing ruse to pull off the surprise. Originally, the call was set up to be between Wallen and Koehn. “I was totally not prepared to be greeted by Chancellor Gray-Little, but it was an amazing surprise for sure,” Koehn said. “As a first-generation student, it took time to learn the collegiate system, but my parents taught me to be resourceful and independent from a young age and KU and the Kansas Air National Guard have provided me with the opportunities to drive me into the future, both at graduate school and in my career. I plan to use the Truman Scholarship to pursue a career as an environmental economist helping to shape future trade agreements and leverage action on important international environmental issues, particularly concerning climate change.” Koehn also had a surprise of her own for the chancellor — the meal she was helping to prepare was not exactly typical Kansas dinner fare. On the menu with her host family in Kyrgyzstan on Monday was a traditional Kyrgyz meal called Beshbarmak, or “five fingers,” because you eat it with your hands. The dish is made of horse and sheep and was being prepared as a birthday celebration for Koehn’s host mom. Chancellor Gray-Little, as she signed off from Skype, made sure to encourage Koehn to enjoy her Beshbarmak. Koehn is the daughter of Rodney and Carolyn Koehn of Burns. She graduated from Fredric Remington High School in Moundridge. She is an active member of the Kansas Air National Guard and currently on leave while studying abroad in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. She is a member of the KU Global Scholars Program and a past member of the Student Senate. In addition to being named a 2015 Truman and Udall scholar, she was named a 2014 Boren Scholar and Gilman Scholar and in 2013 was named the Kansas Air National Guard Airman of the Year.


One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
26 prestigious Rhodes Scholars — more than all other Kansas colleges combined
Nearly $290 million in financial aid annually
46 nationally ranked graduate programs.
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Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
—ALA
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