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Laird Essay Contest Winners Announced

Monday, May 2, 2016



Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies
University of Kansas

LAWRENCE - The Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies (CREES) has announced that this year’s Roy D. and Betty Laird Essay Contest winners are Global & International Studies MA candidate Travis Toon, for his essay entitled “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 Dr. Roy D. Laird, a longtime member of the Russian and East European Studies (REES) and Political Science faculties, and Ms. 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, and Toon and Koehn will present at the final CREES Brownbag of the year, on Tuesday, May 3, at 12pm in 318 Bailey.

Toon is a native of Irvine, California. He received his BA in History from Ottawa University (Ottawa, Kansas). He is a Master's candidate in the Global and International Studies program where 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 US Trade Representatives while participating in the Truman Summer Institute. ​


Upcoming event: Tuesday, May 3, 2016 - 12:00-1:00pm, 318 Bailey.

Brownbag Lecture: Laird Essay Contest Winners
  • Travis Toon: “Kosovo in Crisis: Caught between The Snake and the Zajednica”
  • Ashlie Koehn: “Imperial Style, Comrade Couture, and the New Frontier Russian Fashion”


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