Seniors Taylor Bezek of Bozeman, Daniel Brooks of Three Forks, Richard Gauron of Bozeman and Boston and Laura Villegas of Cota, Colombia and Bozeman, received the annual Heydar Aliyev Award for Academic Excellence Impacting on Azerbaijan from Elin Suleymanov, Azerbaijani Consul General to California and the 13 western American states.
The Consul General made the presentation Friday at MSU.
The four students are all veterans of several Middle East/Caucasus-related classes taught by Thomas Goltz, MSU adjunct professor, including a three-week "New Silk Road" summer school course held last summer from Baku to Istanbul via Georgia and a diplomatic simulation based on the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation, of which Azerbaijan is a core member. Goltz has written a book, "Azerbaijan Diary," as well as similar books on Chechnya and Georgia.
Each student will receive $500 in prize money. Usually the prize is $1,000, but Goltz said he convinced Suleymanov to increase the award to $2,000 and for the students to share the award because "I could not possibly make a decision to reduce my four best to two best or one best."
Bezek wrote his thesis on a comparison of democratic and economic development in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Latvia. Brooks wrote his thesis on security issues he explored as a three-tour veteran of the Iraq War. It also won a departmental award. Gauron wrote his thesis on GazProm and Caspian energy issues. Villegas wrote her thesis on the concept of the "Resource Curse."
Suleymanov thanked the students for their interest and scholarship on Azerbaijan and the Caspian world.
"You have been to Azerbaijan, and have seen first-hand what progress has been made since the problematic days your dear professor wrote about in his book during the early 1990s. You also have a very sound idea of where we need to go next. Thank you for your interest in us."
Earlier in the day, Suleymanov, Vice-Consul Ramil Gurbanov, Goltz and Jerry Johnson, chairman of the MSU Department of Political Science, met with MSU President Waded Cruzado.
"We already have a working relationship for this with countries such as Japan and Kazakhstan," said the MSU president. "We can easily replicate this with Azerbaijan in such fields as energy and the environment. There is no point in re-inventing the wheel. We are eager to do more in the way of reciprocal Montana-Azerbaijan relations."
Thomas Goltz (406) 994-4141, firstname.lastname@example.org