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Boehm takes first place in Sider Institute competition

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – For the second year in a row, a Bethel College student finished first in the Anabaptist research paper competition sponsored by the Sider Institute at Messiah College, Grantham, Pa.

The first-place award of $500 went to Allison Boehm, senior from Prairie Village, for her paper “Beyond the Sewing Circle: Public and private gender concepts within the leadership of the Mennonite Women’s Missionary Society, 1911-1929.”

In 2008, Bethel students swept the Sider Institute competition, taking first, second and third place. (Meredith Lehman, currently a senior majoring in history and Bible and religion, was the second-place finisher in 2008.)

Boehm, a biology major with a minor in Bible and religion, wrote the paper for Penelope Adams Moon’s Gender in American History course. “I took the class purely for fun,” Boehm said. “I’m interested in gender studies and wanted to take an upper-level history course while I was at Bethel. I wanted to challenge myself to do truly original research for the term paper.

“There isn’t a whole lot that has been done in terms of studying Mennonite history from a gender angle,” she continued. “I was doing some preliminary research in the [Mennonite Library and Archives at Bethel College] to see what I could find. When I stumbled upon a few sentences about some conflict surrounding the Mennonite Women’s Missionary Society, I was intrigued.”

Bethel’s history faculty is Mark Jantzen, associate professor of history, and Moon (currently on sabbatical), associate professor of history.

Papers for this year’s Sider Institute competition, the eighth annual, must have been written by undergraduates from any discipline during the 2007-08 or 2008-09 academic years. College or university graduates from 2008 are eligible to submit papers they wrote as undergraduates. The papers must address an Anabaptist-related subject (contemporary or historical), show evidence of thorough research and demonstrate original thinking.

The Sider Institute for Anabaptist, Pietist and Wesleyan Studies facilitates the exploration and interpretation of the three theological traditions that have long shaped the “personality” of Messiah College’s founding denomination, the Brethren in Christ Church. More specifically, the Sider Institute nurtures scholarly research, sponsors public lectures and supports various interpretive activities that advance the understanding of these theological traditions. It was founded in 1999 and named in honor of professor emeritus E. Morris and Leone Sider.

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 Forbes.com’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 www.bethelks.edu.

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