Pier Larson Prize

Pier Larson

The Pier Larson Prize for All-Around Achievement in International Studies is awarded annually to a member of the graduating class who best exemplifies Professor Larson’s broad interests in global studies, foreign languages, and interdisciplinary scholarship. The recipient of the Pier Larson Prize will have a demonstrated record of broad achievement in and service to the major, strong leadership skills, and show potential to make a positive and lasting impact on the world. The recipient will receive a monetary award and will have his or her name engraved on a plaque displayed in the International Studies Program office in Mergenthaler Hall. 

Faculty who wish to nominate a student for the Pier Larson Prize should complete the short nomination formNominations are due by May 4, 2022.

Pier Larson (1961-2020)

This prize honors the memory of Pier Larson, professor of African history at Johns Hopkins University and world-renowned expert on Madagascar and the Indian Ocean. His “Introduction to African History” course was a perennial favorite among International Studies majors. He was also faculty director of International Studies from 2013-14, served on the ISP Advisory Board, and led the Foreign Language & Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship program that has enabled dozens of students to study languages on campus and abroad. Read the Baltimore Sun’s full obituary of Pier Larson.

Student Testimonies

Dr. Larson was one of my first professors at Hopkins. I took a freshman seminar he taught called “Health, Healing, and Medicine in Africa.” It was one of the most challenging classes I took at Hopkins because it forced me to reconsider everything I thought I knew about medicine as a science and an art. He was incredibly kind and gentle, yet so insightful. I still have one of the books we read for his class – Bitter Roots by Abena Dove Osseo-Asare – which I refer back to frequently in my work. He was a great professor and a kind man.

International Studies alum Carolina Andrada, ’20

The first time I ever took African history classes was at Hopkins and half of those classes were taught by Professor Pier Larson. I first encountered Professor Larson as a sophomore in his class “Decolonization and Citizenship in Africa.” It was his course on “Gender and Sexuality in African History” however that became one of my favorites during junior year. While teaching these small seminars, Professor Larson encouraged my classmates and I to actively engage in and think critically about people across the African continent through the stories and choices that shaped their past. He also told us his own stories about growing up, conducting researching, and traveling all over the world. This made his classes as well as the other campus activities he participated in particularly fascinating.

International Studies alum Nana Bruce-Amanquah, ’20

I was lucky to have taken two of Professor Larson’s classes – “Introduction to African History and Gender and Sexuality in African History.” From learning about the impact of colonization in Africa to masculinity in Congo, I was exposed to many historical and contemporary issues in his classes. Professor Larson loved to listen to our perspectives on the readings but also challenged our views and made us think more critically. I learned so much from his classes, and I would apply that knowledge to other classes and still use it as a framework for what I see in the world today. Most importantly, Professor Larson was a kind and thoughtful professor who cared about his students.

International Studies alum Woudese Befikadu, ’19

I was lucky enough to be in two of Professor Larson’s classes, and enjoyed every second of both of them. As a professor, Professor Larson was one of the best. His love for African history was palpable, and his excitement about the subject matter was contagious. I found myself excited to take on long reading assignments, normally daunting to me, to prepare for the stimulating discussions that were sure to take place during his classes. As a person, Professor Larson’s genuine care for his students made each class session feel more like a family or close group of friends chatting around the kitchen table. Each class would begin with fun conversation which brought the class close together. Professor Larson was a master storyteller, and he loved to tell his classes about his experiences traveling, doing research, and anything else that came to his mind. I remember that one year before Spring Break, we were talking about our travel plans during class, and Professor Larson, who seemed to have traveled to just about every city in the world, was quick to provide great recommendations to every student. Professor Larson was a great professor and man, and he will be missed!

International Studies alum Zack Toussaint ’19

Past Recipients

  • 2021 – Lindsay Ofori