Dr. Kristina Hook, assistant professor of conflict management at Kennesaw State University, presents on “Russia’s Full-Scale Invasion of Ukraine: Atrocity Crimes, Accountability, and Pursuing a Just Peace” for the Keim Lecture Series on Thursday. (Photos: EMU/Macson McGuigan)

Students gain fresh perspective on Ukraine through Keim Lecture Series

EMU junior Jason Dwyer is interested in a career in public policy. The Fairfax, Virginia, native is double-majoring in political science and history and envisions a job someday at the U.S. Department of State.

So, when Dr. Kristina Hook, a former State Department policy adviser for mass atrocity prevention, visited EMU last week to present on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Dwyer jumped at the chance to see her speak.

“It was fascinating and interesting to see someone in the field talk about what they’re passionate about,” Dwyer said. “It was cool, especially to hear not necessarily what you get on the news.”

Hook is an assistant professor of conflict management at Kennesaw State University specializing in comparative genocide studies. Supported by the National Science Foundation, Fulbright and USAID fellowships, she has conducted fieldwork in Ukraine since 2015.

She was selected as this year’s speaker for the annual Albert N. Keim Lecture Series, presented by the EMU History and Political Science programs. In addition to her lecture, she met with faculty and students such as Dwyer for lunch, where she talked about her career progression and path through higher education.

Lys Nolt, a senior from Harrisonburg, also attended the lunch talk with Hook as well as the afternoon lecture. Nolt is taking a human rights and dignity course this semester, and was strongly encouraged to attend the presentation. 

The peacebuilding major is interested in working with nongovernmental organizations after graduation, and appreciated hearing Hook speak about generational trauma. 

“Something I’ve been learning more and more in peacebuilding is the importance of hearing the community and hearing what people have to say,” Nolt said. “The amount of care she has for both the Russian and Ukrainian peoples and for their state of living and their well-being during events of mass atrocities … I was really impressed by the way she approached it.”

Hook’s lecture on Thursday, Jan. 25, titled “Russia’s Full-Scale Invasion of Ukraine: Atrocity Crimes, Accountability, and Pursuing a Just Peace” included:

  • Legal definitions of “atrocity crimes” and how they differ from “war crimes”
  • A historical context to Russia’s aggression against Ukrainians
  • Descriptions of the horrors that Ukraine is enduring
  • Reactions from Ukrainians to the war

According to a slide from her presentation, 14,000 Ukranians were killed and 1.5 million internally displaced in the first seven years of the Russia-Ukraine War, from 2014 to 2021. During that span, 30,000 war crimes were committed on Ukrainians, and “jokes and slurs began to open conversations about Russian imperialism within Ukraine.”

In early 2022, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine became the largest attack on a European country since World War II, the violence ratcheted up. Ninety-thousand war crimes were recorded in 365 days. Genocidal language was regularly aired on Russian state TV. Torture and disappearances were a regular occurrence. And, for more than 700 days, daily nationwide missile attacks struck hospitals, churches, museums and art galleries.

About 60 people filled the Strite Conference Room in the Campus Center to watch her presentation.

Hook received her joint Ph.D. in anthropology and peace studies from the University of Notre Dame. She is a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center.

Her forthcoming book analyzes the legacy of the Holodomor, a genocide in Ukraine under Joseph Stalin, including how this historical memory is driving Ukraine’s strong resistance to Russia today.

More on the Keim Lecture Series

The Albert N. Keim Lecture Series honors the memory of Professor Albert N. Keim, who served as a history professor at EMU for 35 years and was the academic dean from 1977 to 1984. The inaugural lecture in 2013 featured leading historian Peter N. Stearns, of George Mason University.

Learn more about past presenters, in this sampling:

2023: Clayton Koppes, professor emeritus of Oberlin College, presented on “Sex, Drugs and Human Rights: The Contested History of HIV/AIDS in the U.S.” 

2022: Professor Kimberly Schmidt presented on“Marketing Mennonites, Posing Cheyennes: Photography, Gender, and Indigenous Agency on the Mission Field (1880-1920).”

2021:  Historian, author, and investigative reporter Rick Shenkman, founder of History News Network, spoke on “Why is Democracy so @#$&! Hard?” 

2020: Professor Ernesto Verdeja, of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at University of Notre Dame, was the speaker. 

2019: Federal public defender, immigrant rights attorney and playwright Kara Hartzler ’94 spoke on “Borders, Jails, and Long Drives in the Desert: 25 Years of Immigration Law in the Southwest.”

2017: Dongping Han, professor at Warren-Wilson College and a native of rural China, addressed “The Cultural Revolution: A Reinterpretation from Today’s China.”

2016: Artist/activist Mark Strandquist provided a lecture titled Performing Statistics: Connecting incarcerated youth, artists, and leading policy experts to challenge Virginia’s juvenile justice system.”

2015: Charles R. Epp, political scientist in the University of Kansas’s School of Public Affairs and Administration, presented “The Police and Racial Discrimination in America.”

2014: Vincent Harding, a pastor, activist and history professor who helped EMC professors initiate social change in Harrisonburg during the early 1960s, presented “Is America Possible?”

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