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Student earns history award for paper
Karissa Marken became the third student from Liberty University’s history graduate program to win the Nels Andrew Cleven Founder’s Prize when her paper, “Autonomy Imposed: Virginia During the English Civil War,” was chosen by the Phi Alta Theta (PAT) National Honors Society in September 2013.
According to Dr. Samuel Smith, the director of the history graduate program, Liberty graduate students have received this national honor for the past three consecutive years.
The Nels Andrew Cleven Founder’s Prize was created in the 1920s in honor of Nels Cleven, the founder of PAT, an American history honors society. According to the PAT website, only graduate students who are members of PAT are eligible to be chosen to receive a cash prize for their exceptional historical papers.
According to Smith, Liberty began its own chapter in 1985 and received the PAT Best Chapter Award in 2012.
At a very young age, Marken said she became aware of her love for history.
“When I was in middle school … we were assigned to read about the Stuarts dynasty in England,” Marken said. “There was a double-page spread, and I fell in love with those pages.
I remember very clearly what they looked like, and it was an aspect of history that I knew nothing about and found fascinating. That sparked a love of British history in me.”
Marken said she also has a deep love of Virginian history because she grew up in Richmond.
“Growing up in Virginia, you just kind of have history all around you … My grandparents lived in Richmond, and coming home from there, we would follow the path of Lee’s retreat from Richmond to Appomattox,” Marken said.
According to Marken, her interest in these two aspects of history gave her a passion and deep interest for her paper topic.
“That is one of the reasons I enjoyed writing this paper so much, because it allowed me to combine my love for British history … with my love of Virginia history,” Marken said. “It was a neat connection that I never made before.”
Marken said that, while researching this topic, she found that no one had really studied the information by itself. Although it was often mentioned in the context of Virginia, there was very little in-depth information regarding Virginia’s role as a royal colony in the 1640s.
“My natural curiosity spurred me onto it, because I wanted to learn more, and it just wasn’t easily out there,” Marken said. “Not much had been done on it before, so I did come up with some original conclusions.”
Smith said the graduate program encourages students to do just as Marken did — to look for gaps in the historiography where there may not be very much information and try to fill those gaps.
“I think the sophistication of her argument is very impressive,” Smith said regarding Maken’s paper. “She takes a problem and evaluates it from all different sides and throws in a lot of really interesting context and comes out with an idea that this is an imposed autonomy.”
According to Smith, the Liberty history graduate program is the only fully accredited graduate program in history from a conservative evangelical perspective.
“We stress that one of the most important things in being a Christian historian is to be truthful … and also give the Christian principles and Christian history a fair hearing, and that is not often done in the secular setting … We believe that Christianity and a biblical approach to history frees students up to really have real academic freedom. If you have a dedication to the scripture and a dedication to the truth, that frees you up to follow evidence wherever it goes.”
Marken said she feels her instruction from the program has benefited her immensely and is due the credit for the national honor she received.
“The Liberty history graduate program offers me guidance that is valuable,” Marken said. “When I am compared to students across the country, I saw that I am able to compete with them and measure up. It was really neat to see that the things that I have learned in graduate school are legit.”
PAT was created March 17, 1971 at the University of Arkansas and has more than 350,000 members, according to the PAT website.