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Sarah Crawford-Parker
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Professor's novel 'The Center of Everything' selected as KU Common Book

Tue, 12/10/2013

LAWRENCE — “The Center of Everything,” the highly regarded first novel by Laura Moriarty, assistant professor of English at the University of Kansas, has been named the 2014-15 KU Common Book by Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little.

“The Center of Everything” is set in the fictional rural Kansas town of Kerrville in the 1980s and follows the lead character from age 10 through primary and secondary education. It is the first novel selected as the KU Common Book since the program’s inception in 2012.

“We have so many talented faculty across campus, and next year’s KU Common Book will give our students and the community the unique opportunity to interact with one of our most impressive writers,” Gray-Little said. “‘The Center of Everything’ will engage students through both the shared experiences of growing up and choosing to attend KU, which the lead character does, and a discussion of cultural issues that are relevant today.”

In the Notes from the Selection Committee that accompanied the recommendation of “The Center of Everything” to the chancellor, committee members highlighted the potential to connect with KU students on issues of economic inequality and educational opportunity:

“As only a compelling novel can do, ‘The Center of Everything’ represents these issues through the subjective experience of a protagonist whose moral and intellectual development consists of honestly and critically examining and reflecting on them. It offers a wealth of opportunities for our first-year students to engage with one another and with the world around them at the beginning of their college experience,” committee members wrote.

Moriarty joined the KU faculty in 2008 and earned her bachelor’s degree in social work and her master’s degree in creative writing from KU.

“I remember when I was writing this book, I was thinking a lot about what it meant for me to come to KU as an undergraduate,” Moriarty said. “As a new student from a small, faraway town, I was of course sometimes anxious or bewildered, but even then, I understood that being here, being part of a community so focused on research and learning, was a gift. Now that I'm on the faculty, I still feel fortunate to be part of this kind of community, and so personally, this selection means a great deal.”

All incoming students will receive a copy of “The Center of Everything” and be encouraged to read it before the beginning of classes in August. Students participate in book discussion groups as part of Hawk Week. KU Common Book is directed by the Office of First-Year Experience. Additional information on KU Common Book is available at commonbook.ku.edu.



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.

RT @kulibraries : Check out this news feature & then check out his book with us: http://t.co/gLNJxmtx1B #KULibraries #KUWorks https://t.co/L…
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.


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