DOE Russian Studies Grant Activity

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The Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures has been awarded a two-year $144,000 grant from the US Department of Education under its Undergraduate International Education and Foreign Language Program to establish a Russian Studies Program.

Contemporary social and economic realities make it imperative that United States college faculty and undergraduate students increase their knowledge of Russia and the republics of the former Soviet Union and come to understand better the role that they may play in the shaping of the new global order. Russian Studies, which brings together faculty and students in a wide range of associated fields, is an important multidisciplinary means of attaining these goals, particularly when the study of Russian language and culture is at its core.

Our Russian Studies Program address the challenge of preparing US college faculty and undergraduate students for this linguistic and socioeconomic reality with a three pronged approach of

Dr. Sylvie Debevec Henning, Chair of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, who designed the project, serves as its director. She is assisted by Dr. Michael Bassman, Director of the University Honors Program, who coordinates curriculum enhancement and Dr. Mary Alice Arnold, Associate Professor of Art Education, who is in charge of community outreach.

"The idea is to get more people in eastern North Carolina - faculty, students and
community members - interested in Russia, Eastern Europe and the Eurasian former republics of the Soviet Union," Dr. Henning said. "Our goal is to increase cultural awareness and understanding." Interest in the program has been tremendous, Dr. Henning said, crediting the response to an evolving social and economic atmosphere. "There is a renewed interest in Russia because of the change in the political situation," she said.

East Carolina University is proposing to address the challenge of preparing US college faculty and undergraduate students for this linguistic and socioeconomic reality by curriculum enhancement, faculty development and ECU community outreach.

Curriculum Enhancement

Our Russian language and literature program, which has languished since the retirement of our lead faculty member, Dr, Maria Malby, has been solidified with the addition of a full-time faculty member, Dr. Elena Murenina. Dr. Murenina comes to ECU from Saratov State University where she was associate professor in the Department of Literary Studies and Journalism.

At ECU Dr. Murenina teaches Russian 1001-1004 as well as classes in nineteenth and twentieth Russian literature in translation. She has proposed revisions to the latter two courses as well as new courses in Russian culture and special topics. We hope that these new courses will be approved in time for the 2004-2005 academic year. Last semester she taught an Honors course, "Russian Beauty in Exile."

"The University Honors Program will be an important contributor to the project
with several new Russian/Eastern European content courses as well as
opportunities for Honors students to meet visiting scholars," said Dr. Bassman, "We are very excited about these new internationalization activities."

ECU makes possible the designing of majors comprising a number of disciplines through its Multidisciplinary Studies Program. Templates have been prepared for both Russian Studies and Russian/Eastern European Studies concentrations. The foundation of these majors is two years of Russian language study. One student has already customized a Russian Studies major and others have expressed interest in doing the same.

Many students at ECU complete a minor as well as their major. Students can design their own interdisciplinary minors. Possible Russian Studies interdisciplinary minor configurations that could be added to a major have already been prepared. Several students are already on board.

Faculty members from a wide range of disciples will be designing new Russian Studies units or modules for existing courses in the College of Arts and Sciences as well as several of the professional schools, including the School of Business, the School of Social Work and Criminal Justice, the School of Art, the School of Industry and Technology and the School of Music. These revised courses will greatly expand the number of options for the multidisciplinary majors and minors in Russian and Russian/Eastern European Studies.

Faculty Development

Another aspect of the project is a two-week research trip to Russia and/or Eastern Europe. This year faculty competed for eight travel grants that will fund the 2003 summer trips. Dr. Henning hopes to fund ten research grants in 2004. In addition to furthering faculty research agendas, these trips will help participating faculty develop new Russian content courses as well as modify existing courses to include Russian modules

The grant also provides funds for research and instructional materials to be added to the Foreign Language Resources Center and the university library.
"Joyner Library has been very generous and we've been able to obtain a large number of books and films through the grant," Henning said.

Co-curricular activities/Outreach Activities

The final aspect of the grant involves community outreach. A film series, a Russian and Eastern European Forum, a Russian Studies web site ( and workshops with Pitt County Schools are in the works to expand the program.

The Russian and Eastern European Forum will be hosting a number of speakers this year, many of whom are Fulbright Scholars. In January, Mr. Petr Chapulesky, secretary for political affairs at the Czech Embassy in Washington will visit the campus as well as Dr. Ihor Zhuk, Director of the Leopolis Project (A digital archive of Ukrainian art) at the Ukrainian Catholic University. Dr. Alesya Bogaevskaya, Dean and Chair, Faculty of Social Management, Department of Management in the Social Sphere, Far Eastern State University, Vladivostok, will visit the campus in February and Dr. Lilia Nizamova, Associate Professor of Sociology at Kazan State University in March.

The theme of this year's film series is "Russia through the American Eyes." Films such as Anna Karenina, Doctor Zhivago and Thirteen Days have been included. The goal of the teacher workshop, which is scheduled for February, is to bring awareness of Russian art to public school children.

The Russian Studies Program supports several of the university's initiatives, including internationalization and the promotion of interdisciplinary studies, while it strengthens the Russian language and literature program in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures.