WSU student Ian Crookston accepted to Harvard

Ian Crookston, a senior at Weber State University, will attend Harvard University after he graduates this spring. He will participate in Harvard’s Master of Arts program in regional studies of Russia, Eastern Europe

(Source: Ian Crookston) Ian Crookston sits in a yurt while visiting Kirgizstan with a colleague.
(Source: Ian Crookston) Ian Crookston (left) sits in a yurt while visiting Kirgyzstan with a colleague.

and Central Asia.

“Ian is a remarkable student who has been accepted to one of the nation’s most prestigious graduate programs,” said Branden Little, history professor at WSU. “He has been very diligent, working to improve his writing over the years. He’s actually one of the few students who I have had who will request more comments on a paper and look for more feedback so that he can then incorporate that.”

Crookston was one of the eight students worldwide who were accepted into the program at Harvard this year. He has spent two years in Kyrgyzstan, working with some of the local populations.

“Basically what I have done so far is, I am graduating with my Bachelor of Arts and History and a minor in Asian studies this spring,” Crookston said. “I have been working with three professors specifically — Dr. Lewis, Dr. Little and Dr. MacKay. I think the thing that got their attention was that I got, from the Office of Undergraduate Research, a grant to do my senior thesis project for my history degree, and I traveled to Kirgyzstan.”

In Kirgyzstan, Crookston studied a group of people that hadn’t gotten much attention nor had a lot written about them. This group is known as the Uyghurs. In doing this project, Crookston’s goal was to contribute to the historiography of the area in Kirgyzstan where the Uyghurs reside.

“When he (Crookston) started, I had him in world history class. He came to class, he was tenacious, and did well in class,” said Greg Lewis, history professor. “He has got a vision, and I think that fact that he was overseas helped him see much more of the world, then he had the language background, so he had an advantage going in.”

Lewis spoke of a time when Crookston turned in a paper based on his research in Kirgyzstan. It was a part of a panel that included the former ambassador of Kirgyzstan from the U.S., who is a full-time faculty member at Utah Valley University. When the Q&A started, Crookston did some translating for the cabinet minister, who spoke no English, and he did it in a way that did not come off as an effort to upstage his seniors and superiors.

“He is a good example that our best students through Weber State can go any place, and do well,” said Kathryn MacKay, history professor. “We have has students who have gone to Notre Dame, Stanford and all kinds of other places. Ian is pretty remarkable; he has been very resourceful and has used his language skills to get involved in this undergraduate research project to go to Kirgyzstan.”

The group Crookston studied is from China, although not of Asian descent but Turkic. According to the Uyghurs, China took over all of their land, and many fled to the Soviet side of the boarder. The Uyghurs who live in Kirgyzstan live in a community separated from the Kyrgyz people.

“I think students should try to get a research grant from the Office of Undergraduate Research and go do something cool,” Crookston said. “Go do a cool project, because the money is out there. Talk to a professor and get them to help you make a good case to get some of that funding to go do some cool research.”