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Penner keeps Bethel's winning history going strong

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – A Bethel College history student tradition of writing award-winning papers continued into 2008 as Jordan Penner, senior history major from Reedley, Calif., became the 21st to take first place in a statewide history teacher-sponsored competition.

The Kansas History Teachers Association, now known as the Kansas Association of Historians (KAH), in 1971 began sponsoring prizes for the best undergraduate history papers written each year. There are two categories in the undergraduate division: Category I for papers produced in seminars or other semester-long courses in which a paper is the principle objective, and Category II for papers produced as one of several important activities that constitute a course.

Winning writers receive a monetary award of $125. Nineteen Bethel students in addition to Penner have taken first place over the years – Daagya Dick won twice, in Category II in 1991 and in Category I in 1993. And the most recent winner, in 2006, was her brother, Jesse Nathan.

Penner’s paper is entitled “The Success of Aztlan,” exploring the use of Aztlan imagery in the poetry and visual art of the Chicano movement in the 1960s and ’70s. Aztlan was a mythical homeland of Chicanos, hearkening back to Aztec and Mayan greatness. Penner argues that using Aztlan imagery gave under-represented, oppressed Chicanos a sense of shared identity and self-esteem as they battled for civil rights in the post-WWII era.

“The contest receives submissions from a range of colleges and universities in Kansas,” said Bethel College Associate Professor of History Penelope Adams Moon. “Any undergraduate is allowed to submit a paper as long as it is in history and sponsored by a history instructor. There is also a graduate category.

“Bethel students have a strong history of winning the KAH student paper competition,” she continued. “This is proof that one need not enter a history program with dozens of professors and hundreds of courses to develop strong skills as a historian.

“Bethel students undoubtedly benefit from the intensive study, wonderfully complex discussion and significant writing expectations that can occur because class sizes at Bethel are small. I have known for a while now that our students are the best in the state – winning the KAH award again this year is just further proof of that.”

The Kansas Association of Historians is composed of historians in university, archival and public settings.

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and was the highest ranked Kansas college in the national liberal arts category of U.S. News & World Report’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2008. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at

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