Daniel Chi / Asst. photo editor
An Ohio State Sikh student whose composed response to an online attack on her facial hair gained international attention last fall is one of two students honored for their active peacemaking.
Balpreet Kaur, a second-year in international development studies and neuroscience, and Hana Strickland, a third-year in political science and international studies, were the first recipients of OSU’s Undergraduate Peace Award, a new award that honors undergraduate students actively working on peace and justice in the Columbus community, said Hannah Bezeredi, president of the Undergraduate Peace Studies Society and a fourth-year in public affairs.
The Peace Studies Society awarded the recipients each a $500 scholarship for tuition and fees. They were honored in a ceremony Friday at the Mershon Center for International Security Studies following a lecture by David Cortright, director of policy studies at the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, called “Winning Without War: Human Security Strategies for the 21st Century.”
Nominees were able to either self-nominate themselves or be nominated through an online application. A committee of five undergraduate students from the Peace Studies Society was able to award three recipients from the dozen applications received, said Bezeredi, but settled on only two recipients this year.
“We were really looking for students who were actively working on peace and justice, and although we did receive a number of really quality applications, we only really wanted to go with two that we felt were actively working,” Bezeredi said.
Kaur was honored for her “contributions to religious dialogue and interfaith understanding,” according to a Peace Studies Society press release. She was nominated by her friend, Amanda Miller, a second-year in pre-medical laboratory science, who said Kaur “doesn’t realize what she’s done for people and what she’s inspired in people.”
In September a Reddit user under the username “european_douchebag” posted a picture of Kaur on Reddit.com without her knowledge. The caption read, “I’m not sure what to conclude from this,” in reference to Kaur’s facial hair and turban. Kaur’s response garnered international attention, and her story was picked up by various news outlets, including Jezebel, Huffington Post, Yahoo!News and CNN.
“I’m not embarrassed or even humiliated by the attention (negative and positive) that this picture is getting because, it’s who I am,” Kaur wrote on Reddit.
Since then, Kaur said the media attention has been dying down, and she is now “getting (her) life in order.” Kaur said she feels “incredibly humbled and awkward at the same time” about receiving the Peace Award.
“I don’t like getting awards, but it was a wonderful opportunity that (Miller) nominated me for it,” Kaur said.
Strickland was awarded for “her work in promoting peace education and curriculum,” according to a Peace Studies Society press release. Since the age of 9, Strickland has been involved in the Children’s International Summer Village Program (CISV), an organization that advances cross-cultural understanding and global friendship. Through CISV, Strickland creates educational curriculum and activities on the subject of peacemaking, and she is now the national junior representative for the organization.
Strickland applied for the award at the encouragement of a CISV worker and member from the Central Ohioans for Peace, an organization aiming “to bring together people who believe in using nonviolent methods to build and sustain a peaceful world,” according to the organization’s website.
“I feel very honored. I know that a lot of students at Ohio State also hold a lot of similar ideas and beliefs that I do, and I just feel very honored and blessed that I’ve been chosen for this award,” Strickland said.
The Mershon Center and Central Ohioans for Peace funded the award.