Karen Dawisha awarded Benjamin Harrison Medallion

Karen Dawisha

Karen Dawisha, the Walter E. Havighurst Professor of Political Science, will receive the Benjamin Harrison Medallion during the commencement ceremony May 17.

Karen Dawisha, Miami University's Walter E. Havighurst Professor of Political Science, will receive Miami University's prestigious Benjamin Harrison Medallion during the May 17 commencement ceremony. The announcement was made during faculty assembly April 30.

Dawisha is known internationally for her academic research, analyses and publications in the fields of post-communist transitions and Russian politics.

She has served Miami and her profession in numerous academic and administrative capacities.

The Benjamin Harrison Medallion Award is one of the most significant recognitions Miami offers faculty for contributions attesting to qualities of teaching, research and/or service. It is named for Benjamin Harrison, the 1852 Miami graduate and 23rd president of the United States, serving from 1889-1893.

Dawisha is the director of Miami’s Havighurst Center for Russian and Post-Soviet Studies. One of the center's large and successful projects was the Silk Road Project. With two grants from the Department of Education and Fulbright-Hays Group, Dawisha developed new courses that extended the reach of Middle East, East Asian and Eurasian studies at Miami into Central Asia. As part of that curricular development, she organized a seven-week trip for 15 faculty from western China through central Asia to Turkey.

Dawisha has authored or co-authored five books, contributed chapters to dozens of other books, edited numerous others and published many scholarly articles. Additional books are forthcoming.

A nominator for this award said, "It is impossible to write on the end of Sovietism and the rise of post-Soviet new political communities without referring to her path-breaking contributions on electocracies."

One of Dawisha's most notable projects was as co-editor of the 10-volume Russian Littoral Project, a series on the changing political and cultural landscape of Russia and Eurasia. It received funding from the MacArthur Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, Pew Charitable Trusts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council for Learned Societies and the State Department.

She has served as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, as well as on a Council Task Force on NATO Expansion and at the Royal Institute of International Affairs.  

She has also served as a member of the U.S. Department of State's policy planning staff in 1986 and Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs in 1987.

Said another nominator: "After building an international reputation for herself as a scholar of the highest rank, she has devoted herself to Miami University for 13 years to create here a unique and powerful institution in Russian studies. She has also given generously of herself to make Miami a better place through her many service assignments at all levels of the university."

She has earned a variety of fellowships throughout the years, including from the MacArthur Foundation, the British Council and the Rockefeller Foundation and, most recently, from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

A colleague who saw Dawisha in action noted: "I had been tremendously impressed by her rapport with the students: she challenged them, encouraged them to formulate their ideas lucidly and concisely, and treated them as younger colleagues. As one of the students mentioned, she is that inestimable professor who, to resort to a paradoxical phrasing, nurtures independent thought."

Dawisha received her doctorate from the London School of Economics in 1975 and taught at a number of British and American universities before joining Miami in 2000.