Montana State University

Bozeman student wins award for excellence in Azerbaijan studies

May 8, 2012

Steven Babbitt receives the Heydar Aliyev Award for excellence in Azerbaijan-related academic endeavors from Ramil Gurbanov, vice consul of the Azerbaijan Consul General based in Los Angeles. Babbitt said an MSU class that he took from Thomas Goltz about the New Silk Road gave him an appreciation for Azerbaijan and its culture. Photo courtesy of Thomas Goltz.   High-Res Available

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Steven Babbitt of Bozeman, who recently graduated from Montana State University with a degree in political science, won the 2012 Heydar Aliyev Award for excellence in Azerbaijan-related academic endeavors.

The Heydar Aliyev Award was delivered by Ramil Gurbanov, vice consul of the Azerbaijan Consul General to Los Angeles and the 12 western U.S. states, including Montana. This is the third year a student from MSU has received the prize.

"I am delighted and honored," said Babbitt, who received a $1,000 check in addition to his certificate. "Azerbaijan has become my obsession."

Babbitt traveled to Azerbaijan in 2010 as part of an MSU class, the "New Silk Road," taught by Thomas Goltz of the MSU Department of Political Science. The course was an intense, traveling summer school course on energy and environmental issues.

Babbitt wrote his senior thesis on a statistical analysis of western media reporting on the Karabakh conflict between the years 1988-94. Babbitt focused on the use of key, emotive words such as "enclave" to describe the Soviet-era autonomy, "Muslim" to describe Azerbaijan or Azerbaijanis and "Christian" to describe Armenia or Armenians. Babbitt said his preliminary findings suggested a disproportionate use of potentially "loaded," and thus misleading, terms of reference.

Babbitt was also the MSU captain of two diplomatic simulations under Goltz' direction--a course based on the 12-member Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation, which had active participation by Azerbaijan, as well as the 22-member Model Arab League. The MSU team participated both in a regional competition in Salt Lake City, as well as in the national competition in Washington D.C. where the MSU delegation took home numerous awards, including the chairmanship of the important environmental affairs committee.

While in Washington, the MSU team had the chance to meet with H.E. Elin Suleymanov, the Azerbaijan ambassador to the United States. Suleymanov was formerly consul general to Los Angeles and a frequent visitor to Montana.

Thomas Goltz,