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Hall Center’s 2015-2016 Sias Graduate Fellows Announced

Thursday, April 02, 2015

LAWRENCE – Sarah Ngoh, a doctoral candidate in English, and Rebecca Stakun, a doctoral candidate in Slavic languages & literatures, have been selected as the recipients of the Richard and Jeannette Sias Graduate Fellowship in the Humanities for 2015-16. The two winners will each spend a semester in residence at the Hall Center.

The goal of the graduate fellowship is to provide recipients with one intensive semester to make significant progress on their dissertations. 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 the gift of Richard and Jeannette Sias of Oklahoma City.

Ngoh’s dissertation project, titled “Writing Men,” will demonstrate that nationalism and gender, specifically masculinities, are discourses that have been challenged and reconfigured over time through the African novel. These reconfigurations signal an important shift in how contemporary African writers address and (re)imagine their nations. Her project compares the post-independence literature of the 1950s and 1960s, penned almost exclusively by men, to contemporary literature written by both men and women.

Ngoh received a bachelor's degree in English literature from Ottawa University in 2002 a master's degree in Pan African studies from the University of Louisville in 2007. She has presented her work at numerous conferences, and most recently she presented “The Other America” at an Ottawa University Diversity Event. Previously, Ngoh worked at the Spencer Research Library in processing the “African American Experience” in the Kansas Collections.

Stakun’s dissertation project, “Terror and Transcendence in the Void: Viktor Pelevin's Philosophy of Emptiness” examines different kinds of “voids” in four novels by major post-USSR collapse author Viktor Pelevin and describes the relationship between emptiness and collective cultural identity. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, citizens of the former USSR began the grueling process of trying to answer the questions “who are we?” and “where are we going?” In the past, the Russian intelligentsia tried to answer the questions “who were we?” and “whence did we come?” What the intelligentsia of both the past and present found was a “void,” which some scholars argue is innately linked to Russia’s particular geography, history and cultural identity.

Stakun received her bachelor's degree in Russian language & literature and international affairs from George Washington University in 2006 and a master's degree in Slavic languages and literatures from KU in 2011. She speaks fluent Russian and has been awarded several foreign language and area studies fellowships in Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian. Her most recent conference paper was “Homo homini lupus: Adaptability in the Prose of Viktor Pelevin,” delivered in 2014 in San Antonio for the Association for Slavic, East European, & Eurasian Studies.

Ngoh and Stakun will be the 12th and 13th recipients of the Sias Fellowship. Angela Moots, a doctoral candidate in French & Italian, and Claire Wolnisty, doctoral candidate in history, are the current Sias Fellows.

Stakun, whose residence is in the fall, and Ngoh, whose residence is in the spring, will join faculty resident fellows at the Hall Center during the 2015-2016 academic year. These faculty fellows are Elizabeth MacGonagle, history and African & African American studies; Santa Arias, Spanish & Portuguese; Jessica Gerschultz, African & African American studies; Gregory Cushman, history and environmental studies, and Megan Kaminski, English.

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