Laura Henry Awarded 2009 Karofsky Prize

Story posted May 06, 2009

Assistant Professor of Government Laura Henry has been named the recipient of the 2008 Sydney B. Karofsky Prize for Junior Faculty. The award was announced at the College's Honor's Day ceremony on May 6, 2009.

Laura Henry
Laura Henry

"I am more than honored to be singled out for this award when I consider the creative, high quality teaching that takes place among my faculty colleagues at Bowdoin," said Henry, who joined the Bowdoin faculty in 2004. "Of course, we're very fortunate to have the student body we have at Bowdoin - smart people who are eager to engage. That's what makes it fun."

Henry is an expert on environmental issues in Russia, whose passion for Russian post-Communist politics often proves contagious to students, who consistently rate her among their favorite professors. Her teaching encompasses subjects ranging from Introduction to Comparative Politics to Social Protest and Political Change.

"The Cold War is almost ancient history to my students, most of whom were born in 1989 or later," noted Henry. "I try to look for different ways to evoke the feeling of the era, to help my students understand that great ideological battle of the 20th century — how much was at stake, how firmly people took sides, how much more complicated it was than it appeared to be."

Henry is also an accomplished scholar who has published articles and book chapters on social mobilization in Russia. She is completing work on her first book, tentatively titled, Environmental Activism in Post-Soviet Russia, which is forthcoming from the Cornell University Press.

She recently co-organized a conference, "Redefining the Common Good After Communism," which brought scholars from around the country to Bowdoin to discuss social policy and political change since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Henry earned her B.A. in political science and history from Wellesley College and her M.A. and Ph.D. in political science from the University of California, Berkeley. She has received numerous awards and fellowships, including a Thomas J. Watson Foundation Fellowship, two Fletcher Family Research Awards, a Fulbright Scholar award, and a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship from the Social Science Research Council.

During her 2007-2008 year as a Fulbright Scholar, Henry traveled to Russia to study citizen efforts to reform social policies in a post-Communist society, notably, those concerning healthcare and housing.

"I'm interested in how people can change politics," said Henry, who conducted focus groups with Russian citizens during her fellowship. "I'm in a discipline that is very focused on the state and I do believe that the state structures political interaction, but I'm also interested in average people who protest or organize or advocate or complain. That's my abiding curiosity."

The Karofsky Prize is given by members of the Karofsky family, including Peter S. Karofsky, M.D. '62, Paul I. Karofsky '66, and David M. Karofsky '93, to honor distinction in teaching by untenured members of the faculty.

It is among the College's most prestigious honors and is awarded annually on the basis of student evaluation of teach to "an outstanding Bowdoin teacher who best demonstrates the ability to impart knowledge, inspire enthusiasm, and stimulate intellectual curiosity."

It is conferred by the Dean for Academic Affairs in consultation with the Committee on Appointments, Promotion and Tenure.

Former Karofsky Prize winners have included Michael Kolster, 2008; Charles Dorn, 2007; Matthew Klingle, 2006; Katherine Dauge-Roth, 2005; Arielle Saiber, 2004; Rachel Beane, 2003; Marc Hetherington, 2002; Takeyoshi Nishiuchi, 2001; and Nancy Jennings, 2000.

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