Dearborn receives Elizabeth Lias Memorial Award

Carly Dearborn, whose studies of history and political science at the University of South Dakota are nearly complete, is the first recipient of the Elizabeth Lias Memorial Award for Outstanding Senior Leadership. Carly, of Milbank, received the award at the Political Science banquet held March 26, 2010.

This honor is given to an outstanding senior political science/criminal justice/international studies student. Members of the Political Science League (PSL) nominate and vote on the recipient. Specifically, PSL members look for seniors who embody the traits Elizabeth (Liz) embodied: leadership, the ability to motivate others, dedication to PSL and the department, and desire to learn about and explore foreign cultures.  

The Political Science League plans to eventually hang a plaque bearing Liz's likeness in the university's Political Science Department. This plaque will list the recipients of the annual award, and include a description of the award.

Liz, of Sioux Falls, died in a car accident Sept. 17, 2009, on Highway 50 east of Vermillion. She was in her senior year at USD pursuing majors in international studies and Spanish and a minor in business. She was a member of the Kappa Alpha Theta Sorority and the Political Science League.

The award was presented to Carly by Political Science League Treasurer Ngoc Thac. In the fall of 2008, Ngoc interviewed Liz about the experiences she and her Political Science League colleagues, including Carly, shared during their travels in Europe earlier that year.  

Following are excerpts of Ngoc's story, which was published in the USD Volante Oct. 22, 2008:

"Junior Liz Lias stood at the center of Red Square in Moscow unable to move. Chills spread through her body as she connected emotionally to one of history's most ominous icons.

"You can still experience the fear Stalin wanted his people to feel," Lias said. "Reading about the square doesn't give you that sense, but being in the middle of it gives you the understanding about how the Russians felt – oppressed and inferior."  

For Lias, textbooks and classrooms could only offer a limited learning experience when it came to culture. When the opportunity to participate in a study tour was presented, Lias knew she had to grab it.

"You can read about communism and Russia all you want but you don't understand their history, culture or their people in general until you've been there," Lias said. "The difference is incomparable because you don't experience half the richness of the culture from studying it in textbooks than you would from being immersed in it."

Lias is one of many USD students who utilized study-tour programs. Unlike studying abroad, these tours offer students an opportunity to travel over a period of weeks instead of a semester  …

"The students who visited Russia last summer had a unique experience relevant to current world events. While they were eating at a Georgian restaurant in Russia, they could already see signs of conflict between the two nations, said Lias.

"It was honestly surreal to realize we were eating in a Georgian restaurant and you couldn't order Georgian wine," Lias said. "There was already an embargo on Georgian goods. For me, it was a premonition that there was real tension between Georgia and Russia."  

Before the trip Lias knew she would learn extensively about Russia's culture and government, but what she also found was a newfound appreciation for her own country, she said.

"It definitely makes you appreciate the freedom you have in this country because you realize how oppressed people have been in other parts of the world," Lias said. "You have more opportunities to do what you want with your talents and resources than any other place in the world."

After having a very positive learning experience in Russia, Lias said she wants to encourage USD students to take advantage of the same opportunities offered at USD.

"We are so fortunate as students of USD," Lias said. "There are so many opportunities to study abroad. You don't get the full sense of another person different from yourself without understanding their history, culture and background. Absolutely every person should go abroad."

Carly will graduate from USD in May. Following an internship this summer, she will begin her graduate studies in Archives and Preservation at the University of Texas at Austin this fall.

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