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Friesen continues Bethel history students’ winning ways

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Bethel College history students continue their winning ways, with Miriam Friesen, senior history, German and secondary education major from Filley, Neb., taking first place in a statewide history teacher-sponsored writing competition.

Friesen is the second Bethel student in a row, and the 22nd since the competition began, to take the top prize from the Kansas Association of Historians (formerly the Kansas History Teachers Association), or KAH. Friesen, a graduate of Paoli (Ind.) Junior-Senior High School, won for the paper she wrote to fulfill requirements for her senior history seminar at Bethel College.

Titled “Becoming Better Men,” Friesen’s paper examines the gendered aspects of camp rhetoric in two Kansas Civilian Conservation Corps camps.

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. Twenty Bethel students in addition to Friesen have taken first place over the years – Daagya Dick won twice, in Category II in 1991 and in Category I in 1993. Bethel student Jordan Penner won the 2008 competition.

“The contest receives submissions from nearly every college and university 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.

“Having served in the past on the KAH committee that evaluates student submissions, it’s clear that what sets Bethel students’ scholarly work apart is the depth and breadth of the research,” Moon added. “Miriam’s paper drew upon extensive primary sources, including the actual camp newsletters and government statistics about camp demographics. Past Bethel winners have also mined foreign language sources. This type of research is fairly rare at the undergraduate level and is one of the things that makes studying history at Bethel College special.”

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 only Kansas private college to be ranked in’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2008 and one of only two Kansas colleges listed in Colleges of Distinction 2008-09. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at

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