Bethel Junior Wins Prestigious Academic Award

Matthew Klopfenstein, a Bethel College junior with a double major in history and philosophy, recently won the inaugural Ronald Wells Undergraduate Research Paper Award. The prestigious award was presented at the Conference on Faith and History, a professional society of Christian historians from the United States and Canada.

The Conference on Faith and History sponsors a Student Research Conference as part of its biennial meeting, and Matt’s paper was one of 36 undergraduate papers selected from across the U.S. for presentation last Thursday at Bluffton University in Bluffton, Ohio. The judges then selected Matt’s paper, “Hegel, Kireyevsly and the Quest for Russian Identity” as the winner, awarding him a substantial cash prize and promise of publication in the professional journal Fides et Historia.

“I plan to go on to graduate school to study Russian history, so the chance to pursue that kind of research now and to receive a reward for it is an honor and a confirmation that this is the right path for me. The award, to me, represents what is hopefully the beginning of my scholarly work in Russian history,” says Klopfenstein.

The son of Bethel College associate professor of music, Reginald Klopfenstein, Matt has a long-term interest in Russian history and culture and studied abroad at St. Petersburg Christian University during the fall of 2007 as part of his program at Bethel College.

“I was first introduced to Russia through my mom's uncle who is a retired history professor and visited Russia and the Soviet Union many times, bringing back small souvenirs for my brother and I. At some point in elementary school I started reading books that I found at the library about Russian history and my interest took off, “ says Klopfenstein.

This is not Matt’s first academic triumph, as he twice captained his Penn High School Academic Super Bowl team to a state championship in Social Studies (2004-2005 and 2005-2006.)