On March 3, three of Berea’s students gave presentations at the Kentucky Political Science Association’s 50th Annual Conference that was held at Western Kentucky University and hosted by current KPSA president, Dr. Saundra C. Ardrey. During this event several awards, including the Distinguished Political Scientist Award, the David Hughes Memorial Award and the Abdul H. Rifai Award, were given to undergraduate and graduate students. For the 2011 conference, one of those awards, the Abdul H. Rifai Award was granted to Ahmad Shuja,’12, making him the 12th Berea College recipient out of the 22 acknowledgments given since the award was first established.
When asked how Ahmad felt about presenting his award-winning piece in front of the conference judges, he said, “I was primarily hoping to get some good feedback on my paper from the panelists and the audience, which is the real intent behind an academic conference like this. In the end, I got feedback and, as an added bonus, the award. I was very happy."
Ahmad, who is currently on his way to graduation, is a political science major and Berea’s Student Government Association President. His presentation, titled “Minority Secessionism in Democracies and Authoritarian Regimes,” was part of his senior capstone course, which he began during the summer of 2010. Since then he has written and rewritten his project, perfecting it using feedback provided by peers and professors, including his adviser and conference sponsor, Dr. John Heyrman. During his capstone course, Ahmad had to present his project multiple times—good practice for the real event. He feels that “good faculty support and hard work” are what aided in his win.
The award itself was established and named after Berea’s Abdul H. Rifai, who created it to give recognition to the most accomplished paper presented by an undergraduate student. Berea College students Courtenay Burns, ‘12, and Sierra Merida,‘12, also competed with more than 50 other students who were after the same award. Competitors came from all over the state of Kentucky, including the University of Louisville, Morehead State University, Kentucky Wesleyan College, Centre College, Campbellsville University and Transylvania University. Every year the conference has been hosted at one of these colleges and every year the program comes together to award acknowledgments to those “Political Scientists whose contribution to the discipline and profession are regarded as outstanding and worthy of notice.”