Victor Bailey
Hall Center for the Humanities

Outstanding humanities graduate students receive Hall Center research awards

Thu, 06/26/2014

LAWRENCE – The Hall Center for the Humanities has recognized several outstanding humanities graduate students with dissertation research and writing awards. The awards are part of the Center’s significant level of support for graduate research.

Angela Moots, a doctoral candidate in French and Italian, and Claire Wolnisty, a doctoral candidate in history, have been selected as the recipients of the Richard and Jeannette Sias Graduate Fellowship in the Humanities for 2014-15. The two winners will each spend a semester in residence at the Hall Center.

The goal of the Richard and Jeannette Sias Graduate Fellowship is to provide the recipients with one intensive semester to make significant progress on the dissertation. The fellowship also seeks to expand the Fellows’ experience beyond a single disciplinary focus by providing the opportunity for interaction with the Hall Center’s interdisciplinary cohort of faculty and public fellows. The Fellowship is made possible through a gift from Richard and Jeannette Sias of Oklahoma City, for whom the award is named.

Moots’s dissertation project, titled “Perceptions of Syncope in Medieval French Literature: The Function and Cultural History of Fainting,” examines the narrative and dramatic functions of syncope, or fainting, in medieval medicine and Old French literatures. Fainting, Moots said, excites interest because of the spectacle it creates and the way it enriches narration. Incidents of fainting create pauses in the text that highlight certain events and characteristics, externalize emotions and sufferings, dramatize illnesses and unveil hidden love. Her dissertation looks at examples of syncope from the earliest appearances of fainting in medieval French literature beginning with the 11th-century hagiographical text "La Vie de Saint Alexis" and continuing to the 13th-century Arthurian prose romances of the Vulgate Cycle. Interestingly, the evolving and increasing role of syncope in literature coincides with the increasing popularity of medical learning, treatments and herbals during the High Middle Ages.

Moots received bachelor's degrees in French and biology from the University of Arkansas in 2006 and began her doctoral program in French literature at KU in 2009. She is the co-editor of Chimères: A Journal of French and Francophone Literatures and Cultures, and she has presented at the Mid-American Medieval Association Conference and the International Congress on Medieval Studies.

Wolnisty’s dissertation project, “Austral Empires: Southern Migration to Central and South America, 1845-1877,” focuses on the thousands of white southerners who left the southern states to migrate to Latin American countries from 1845-1877. She argues that southern migrants and filibusters from states such as Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas grappled with questions about American identities as they left the geographic confines of the United States during the Civil War ra. Wolnisty intends to examine the movement of people from the American South to southern countries to highlight the networks between the Civil War-era United States and Latin America, as well as to include Latin America in her discussion of the South’s object of becoming a beacon of racial truth for the world.

Wolnisty received her bachelor's in history from Creighton University in 2010, a master's degree in American history from KU in 2012, then began her doctoral program in 2013. She has several published entries on the Kansas City Public Library Project Civil War on the Western Border, and she recently served as a panel commentator on “Rescuing Voices from Critical Conflicts in the Nineteenth Century” through the History and American Studies departments at Creighton.

In addition to the Sias Fellowships, four outstanding graduate students were selected for Graduate Summer Research Awards. The awards offer summer support for graduate students engaged in humanistic dissertation research and writing. The goal of the awards is to make possible full-time dissertation work for the months of June and July.

The four winners:

  • Pooya Naderi, sociology, “Suicidal Masculinities; Social Control from Above, Below, and Within since 9/11”
  • Claire Wolnisty, history, “Austral Empires: Southern Migration to Central and South America, 1845-1877”
  • Kenton Rambsy, English, “Mapping African American Short Stories, 1889-2014”
  • Jaclyn Miller, history, “Financing the Frontier: Bankers and the Development of the Central Great Plains, 1870-1941.”

The four students organize the Interdisciplinary Graduate Research Workshops during the academic year following the summer of support, where they will present their own work. The Hall Center will post workshop meeting dates on its website. The Graduate Summer Research Awards are made possible by the generous support of the Friends of the Hall Center.

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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.

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Wanna Skype? Chancellor gets creative to surprise Truman winner From KU News Service: 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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