The Dickinson College Russian Department strives to instill in each of its students an enthusiasm for Russian language and culture. After graduating, students seem to maintain this passion, no matter where their professional life takes them. Many get hooked on living in Russia during their study abroad and return to Moscow after graduating to teach English, research or pursue careers in business. Many go to graduate schools to get advanced degrees in Russian or International Studies, MBA, law and even medicine. Even if their current profession is not connected to Russian, they often feel that Russian studies have been an important stepping stone in their careers and have enriched them as individuals. And, of course, we are especially proud of the fact that in the last seven years seven Russian language graduates have received Fulbright Fellowships to do research in Russia and former Soviet republics.
Lucas Stratton '04
I graduated from Dickinson in 2004 with a double major in French and Russian languages and literatures. During the course of my studies at Dickinson I spent two semesters in Russia and one in Toulouse. In the summer immediately following graduation I served as lead resident advisor for the The Governor’s School Summer Russian Language Program at Virginia Commonwealth University. Come August of 2004 I had returned to Moscow under the auspices of the William J. Fulbright program to undertake research on synaesthetia in the works of symbolist writer Andrei Bely and composer Alexander Scriabin. During this year of research I continued to study with poet and philosopher Vladimir Mikushevich, who served as my advisor during the second semester of my Dickinson-in-Moscow sojourn. Upon the end of my Fulbright grant, I traveled to Ufa to teach English to Russian schoolchildren at a summer camp run by the U.S. Department of State. Before beginning my M.A. studies at the University of California at Berkeley, I taught and translated Russian on a free-lance basis in my "birthtown," Richmond, VA. Currently I am in my fourth-year of a combined M.A. and Ph.D. program at U.C. Berkeley. My major field of study is the Russian Avant-Garde in poetry, 1910-1930, and I focus most notably the work of Vladimir Maiakovsky and Mikhail Kuzmin.
Caitlin Rice ‘09
Dickinson taught me that taking on a challenge with an open mind and proactive attitude is the best way to truly engage the world. By studying abroad in Moscow, I gained a better grasp of what it means to be a citizen of modern Russia. I never imagined I would meet so many people who were willing to chat with me about everything, from language to politics, to current events, to pop culture. Not unlike the literary tradition that Russians hold near and dear, Muscovites seem very much in touch with the idea of the "Russian soul", which made for a warm reception and rewarding exchanges.
I graduated from Dickinson in 2009 with a major in Russian and a minor in French. I am currently pursuing an M.P.I.A. in Security Studies and Russian-East European Studies at the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. I am a US Department of Education Federal Foreign Language Area Studies (FLAS) Fellow of Advanced Russian Language and served as a volunteer attaché/translator and open-source media analyst during the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh. My current research focuses on transnational organized crime in Eurasia and the intersection between Olympic contracts and criminal groups in Sochi. Upon graduation in 2011, I plan to work for the federal government at the Department of Defense or State. Listen Caitlin's graduation speech.
Rosalie Gant '07
My interest in Russian culture and literature started at a young age and only grew with time. It seems the more I found out about Russia the more I wanted to know and experience.
I moved to Moscow in August 2008 to work as an English teacher. Teaching was a way for me to spend more time in Russia and continue to improve my Russian through immersion. I have really enjoyed the teaching experience. I've made some good friends from my students and fellow teachers and enjoy being a part of the lively expat community. I try to see as much as I can in my free time and have taken many short trips to towns outside of Moscow and some longer trips to places like Kostroma and Kazan. Every day I am amazed by this city. I live in the Taganka area not far from Moscow's oldest building which houses the Andrei Rublev museum and I can see the domes of Christ the Savior from my window.
After a year I realized that although my spoken Russian had improved greatly, I had very little opportunity to read and write, so in September 2009 I enrolled in some classes at RGGU. My fascination with Russia has only gotten stronger through living here. I expect that I will continue to study the Russian language and all things Russian for the rest of my life.
Nicolas Stebinger '05
I graduated from Dickinson in 2005 with a major in International Studies and a minor in Russian. I spent my junior year with Dickinson’s program in Moscow.
During my senior year I decided to join the Peace Corps. My knowledge of Russian made me an attractive candidate, and I soon shipped out to Moldova. Nominally an agricultural volunteer, I spent nearly all of my time working with a local business development NGO, Pro-Business Nord, in the Russian-speaking city of Balți. Thanks to my familiarity with the language, I was able to hit the ground running. Within the first few months I helped Pro-Business Nord win a project proposal to become the hub of a major internationally funded counter-trafficking project for the northern half of the country. Because our donors spoke only English, and my Moldovan counterparts spoke only Russian and Romanian, I became by necessity a major part of the project’s planning and implementation, which kept me busy for the rest of my time in Moldova. I came away from a truly incredible experience in the Peace Corps with a changed outlook on life and lasting friendships which would not have been possible but for the skills I gained with help from Dickinson’s Russian Department.
While in Moldova I also had time for a lot of reading, which led to a fascination with the legal process and a decision to attend Georgetown Law. My legal interests are not Russian-related, but my experiences in the former Soviet Union have been a real asset in making connections within the legal community, culminating in employment at a firm with an extremely well respected CIS practice upon graduation this coming spring.
Professional development aside, the ability to speak Russian—and I do believe that Dickinson has one of the best Russian language programs out there—opens doors to an overwhelming diversity of cultures in the CIS. The influence of the Soviet Union has left Russian speakers throughout the whole of Eurasia. The golden combination of cheap train travel, great food and generally hospitable peoples in the region has given me some great adventures and friendships for which I am thankful beyond words.
Emily Kodama '05
After graduation from Dickinson in 2005, I started working as an administrative assistant in the Russian Art department at Sotheby's Auction house in New York.
Luckily, the Russian Art market was just beginning to hit its stride in 2005 thanks to the strong economy in Russia and Sotheby's had recently started a separate Russian department in New York and needed Russian speakers. Since then I've moved into a cataloguing position and now I'm primarily working on researching and writing notes for each painting that comes to us for sale and designing the catalogue we distribute pre-auction. While much of my position now is devoted to research, I still speak frequently to clients in Russian.
I spent my junior year in Moscow with the Dickinson immersion program and continue to be grateful for that unique experience. The year was incredibly important not only for the language instruction but for allowing me to truly understand Russian culture. As a music performance minor I was particularly amazed at the Russian musical scene and attended as many concerts as possible while continuing my piano study. My experiences during that year continue to help me with my current responsibilities as a cataloguer at Sotheby's. I understand my Russian clients' backgrounds and the subtleties of their culture. I was a Muscovite for a year!
Jenny Webb ‘05
After graduating from Dickinson, I began to work for American Councils for International Education in Washington, DC. At American Councils I work for the Open World Program. The Open World Program is funded by Congress and it brings emerging leaders from Russia and the former Soviet Union to the United States for 10-day exchange programs. The participants stay with American host families and shadow professionals in the same field as them in order to learn from one another. I help arrange their travel and visas and work with the hosts to create an interesting agenda for the groups. I work with the participants when they arrive in Washington, DC for a two-day orientation and I keep in touch throughout their stay to ensure the program is going smoothly. I am so glad that I can continue to use my language skills that I learned while at Dickinson and in Moscow, and I love getting to meet so many people! We work with participants from Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, so I have the opportunity to learn so much about all their different cultures. My four years here have been a great experience!
For more information: www.americancouncils.org | www.openworld.gov
Matthew Winter '02
I graduated from Dickinson in 2002 with a major in Russian and immediately headed off to the CIS to pursue a Fulbright scholarship in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan from September 2002 to October 2003. My research project was titled “Paradigms of Local Government in the Fergana Valley Region” and segued into my first assignment at the Urban Institute’s Tashkent office – a study on the state of local government in Uzbekistan, which I co-authored (read "Assessment of Intergovernmental Relations and Local Governance in the Republic of Uzbekistan"). I stayed with the Urban Institute in Central Asia until the end of 2006, working on the USAID-funded Local Government Initiative (LDI) and the Collaborative Development Initiative (CDI), also funded by the United States Agency for International Development. In LGI I led research projects, helped draft proposals for legislative reforms and training materials for community mobilization throughout Uzbekistan, sending me to Bukhara, Samarkand, Navoi and the Fergana Valley. CDI was an economic development program in the Kyrgyz portion of the Fergana Valley, which worked on projects as diverse as orchard management, artificial insemination of cattle, greenhouse construction and beekeeping. In both projects, I worked in fully Russian-speaking offices and I maintain that I could not have done this job without a good working knowledge of the language.
Since then, I have made repeated trips to the region, working on short consulting projects for NGOs in Russia and Ukraine. I recently received my MBA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management, and am now living in Shanghai, China, working for EurasiaCFO Transaction Services (http://www.EurasiaCFO.com), a boutique financial services consultancy that provides advisory on a wide variety of investment projects, from an IPO for a Mongolian cement factory to a quick-service restaurant chain in China. The company has operated in China for 8 years, but I will soon launch their first non-China office for work on projects in Central Asia and non-EU Eastern Europe. Read about Matthew’s exploits during his stay in Central Asia several years ago.
Erica Lally ‘08
I fell in love with Russia and the Russian people while studying abroad during my junior year on Dickinson's Moscow Program. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa with a B.A. in International Studies, I spent ten months in Russia on a Fulbright research grant. As part of my research, I interviewed citizens of a dacha community, examining the community's history as a microcosm for the broader history of the Russian intelligentsia. I plan to pursue a career in international affairs.
Evan Sparling ‘08
For some reason people always ask me why I study Russian. I don’t know, but I would bet that my biologist, journalist, and sociologist friends don’t have to answer similar questions nearly as often. And I’m afraid that I don’t have a satisfying answer to this question. I continue telling all who ask that, during my childhood, my father, a great fan of American history and architecture, dragged me to all sorts of historic sites and buildings throughout the eastern seaboard. By the time I reached high school I was so fed up with American history that I looked to its complete opposite, and discovered the Soviet Union. Throughout high school I read books about great revolutionaries and, my head filled with cold-war era nonsense about riddles wrapped in enigmas, dreamed of visiting this mysterious land.
I chose Dickinson mostly because it would give me the opportunity to do just that. One of the few colleges in the US with its own year-long Russia program, Dickinson would allow me to spend a significant amount of time living in Russia learning the language and unwrapping those riddles and enigmas. Fortunately Dickinson’s history department steered me away from literature written about the Soviet Union during the 1950s and provided me with up to date scholarship on the Soviet experiment. I became even more fascinated with this attempt to transform not just government, but society and even human nature itself.
I spent my junior year studying in Moscow, the cosmopolitan capital or the Russian Federation. Here I lived with a host family and steadily improved my Russian, although not without a series of hilarious (for other people) mistakes and misunderstandings, one in which I told my host sister that I categorically despise all horses. During my winter break, in search of adventure and against the advice of pretty much everyone, I traveled to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan to see ancient madrassahs and miles of empty steppe. There I discovered a society caught between ancient local traditions, Soviet norms, Islamic principles and ubiquitous western culture. One memorable evening a group of Uzbek men lectured me on Islam, their faith, while drinking shot after shot of vodka. When I returned to Moscow for my second semester I volunteered at a refugee absorption center and conducted research on Uzbek labor migration to Russia’s capital.
Having grown up during New York’s racial conflicts of the 1990s, I had long been fascinated with the relationship between government and ethnic groups, and became particularly interested in Soviet attempts to create a singular Soviet citizenry with no separate ethnic identity. I wrote my senior thesis on national self-identification among Rusyn’ immigrants to America, and applied for a Fulbright grant to study the Soviet “friendship of the peoples” movement in Uzbekistan. My application denied for political reasons, I was instead offered a grant to Kyrgyzstan, which I began in January 2009.
In Kyrgyzstan I conducted interviews and archival research to understand the role of Soviet power in the formation of the Kyrgyz national identity and the regulation of ethnic relations in this multi-ethnic republic. I also taught classes at Kyrgyz National University, volunteered at a local NGO, wrote several freelance articles, and sampled several local specialties, such as fermented mares’ milk (think runny alcoholic yogurt). While still in Kyrgyzstan I interviewed for and was offered a position at Pacific Environment, an environmental non-profit based in San Francisco. I moved to California straight from Bishkek in October 2009 and now coordinate Pacific Environment’s salmon preservation programs on Russia’s Kamchatka peninsula.
Read my blog: Kyrgyzstanorama, and my articles (two are written as William O'Connor for, well, various reasons): "Kyrgystan: gangs govern life in many Kyrgyz schools", "Kyrgyzstan: ethnic minority expands ties to South Korea", "Russia: Central Asia’s female labor migrants grapple with uncertainty".
Catherine Meyrat '01
I graduated from Dickinson in 2001 with a double major in French and Russian and my time at Dickinson, as well as my semester in both Moscow and Toulouse, made a profound impact on my life these last eight years. With the help from Professors Nancy Mellerski and Elena Duzs, I applied and received a Fulbright and an IREX (which I declined).
I was off to Moscow for 14 months on the Fulbright to study the growth and methods of Russian environmental groups. I used a three month extension of the Fulbright to travel through Siberia to Kamchatka interviewing environmental activists. For four months I didn’t spend one night in a hotel, instead I was taken in by Russians that I met through contacts, friends, or with whom I spent 48 hours in a train compartment. Along the way I went horseback riding in the wilds of Altai, climbing rock pillars in Krasnoyarsk, camping on Olkhon, and backpacking over volcanoes in Kamchatka.
After the Fulbright was over, I couldn’t conceive of leaving beautiful, messy Moscow, so I stayed on for three more years. I worked as a freelance English teacher and as a journalist for The Moscow Times. Within the year I joined Independent Media, the parent company of The Moscow Times, as an editor for special publications. Later I joined the New Eurasia Foundation, an NGO that was spinning off its American parent organization, as a communications consultant. Looking back, living in Moscow gave me the opportunity to gain job experience at a level that would have been difficult to gain in the US fresh out of college. It became increasing difficult to live in Russia as a freelancer without an official work visa. So I returned to be near family and get an MBA from Boston University. I also worked at Boston University, first as a communications manager and then a production manager for an online news site. While studying the MBA part-time, I worked as Assistant Director for Boston University’s center for entrepreneurship. At this new center, I created processes for budgets, staffing, communications, event logistics, and a new website.
I still miss Russia deeply, especially after watching some of the movies I brought back, reading a book in Russian, or after a visit to the local banya or Russian grocery store. However, since moving back I decided to visit other parts of the world and have made it to the remote beaches and jungles of Costa Rica and Honduras. Most recently, I participated in BU's inaugural MBA India field seminar in January 2009, where I had the opportunity to explore health care challenges and opportunities in India and how to apply those lessons to the global context.
While I no longer live in Russia, my global world has grown to include getting my wedding dress tailored in Mumbai, researching entrepreneurship in India from the shine of Bangalore to the slums of Mumbai, and consulting with a social business in Guatemala. Though I don’t currently use my Russian skills at work, the memories, friends, language skills, and adventures have definitely enriched my life. It’s made me stand out from other job candidates and was one reason my French-American husband wanted to date me. Those Dickinson days in Russian class and studying abroad, as well as post-Dickinson years living in Russia will always be a part of me. Russia doesn’t allow herself to be forgotten so easily!
Alla Lipsky '08
I work for a small non-profit organization called NCSJ. It's a Jewish organization that works with the former Soviet Union on various issues. My job here is to do some research and writing, assist with planning trips and meetings, follow legislative and human rights issues in the FSU and attend congressional hearings and meetings at think-tanks. I occasionally speak Russian for work. I spend a LOT of my time at work reading the news and keeping up with what is happening in that part of the world.
Charlie Blanchard ‘06
I graduated Dickinson College having majored in International Relations and Russian. After I graduated I became employed at the Moscow Times, an English-language daily based in Moscow. I went on to work in the Research Department at Troika Dialog, a Moscow-based investment house. Troika approved my request to transfer to their New York office in 2007, where I worked until being admitted to Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). I am currently earning a Master's in Economic Policy and Management (graduation anticipated May 2010).
Cara Roney ‘08
I decided to study Russian after being introduced to Russian literature in my first year at Dickinson. I had to wait until my sophomore year to begin, but once I had started, I couldn't get enough of it. My professors even encouraged me to apply for the full year abroad, even though I didn't have the required two years of study. The time I spent in Moscow was exceptionally demanding and gave me new confidence in myself.
I graduated with a double major in Russian and International Studies in 2007 and returned to Russia in the fall of that year. I spent my first year back teaching general English to groups of children and adults. I have since joined the Marketing Department of a multinational audit and consulting firm and now run the English editing team. Although my work is in English, my colleagues all speak Russian to me, and so I've managed to pick up a bit of business Russian as well. I also visit my former Dickinson host mother at least once a week, and she still takes every opportunity to tell me I don't eat enough or to tsk tsk the fact that I won't touch dill or caviar.
Amy Wilson ‘06
I graduated from Dickinson in 2006 with majors in Russian language and political science. I spent two semesters in Moscow with the Dickinson program where my favorite experience was taking a 24 hour train ride north to the city of Arkhangelsk. Following Dickinson graduation, I worked as an AmeriCorps volunteer with the International Rescue Committee where I was able to speak Russian with refugees from various Central Asian countries. I recently completed a master's degree in Russian, Eurasian and East European studies at Georgetown University.
Jack Seitz ‘05
After graduating in 2005, I spent a year on a Fulbright Fellowship in Kostanai, Kazakhstan, conducting research on the social effects of the Virgin Lands Campaign. In addition to studying Kazakh and conducting archival research and oral history interviews, I lectured in History, Political Science, Sociology, and American Studies at the Kostanai State University and the Kostanai State Pedagogical Institute. During the year I also volunteered to help with the local English Club, tutoring orphans, assisting a local Peace Corps Volunteer in hosting professional development trainings, and served as a counselor at two summer camps. Upon returning to the states I undertook the task of revitalizing my grandparents farm in York County PA, which had not been farmed in a decade. After spending two seasons reclaiming the land and running a small organic truck farm, I returned to my native West Virginia and began working for the Rural Appalachian Improvement League, a non-profit in the southern coalfields which works to address the root causes of poverty and clean up the environmental and social degradation left by the decline of the coal industry in the region. I work as the Director of the Farming for Health and Wealth Program, which seeks to identify, motivate, and cultivate small farmers and gardeners in the coalfields and build a sustainable agriculture sector in an economy badly in need of diversification. The program also works to help low income families learn about the health and economic benefits of fresh home grown food and to preserve the rich gardening traditions of the coalfields. Additionally, the program established and manages a demonstration farm, which showcases low cost sustainable growing practices and heirloom and teaches youth about sustainable agriculture through an internship program. Currently I am under deferment at Indiana University where I have been accepted into their Masters Program in Central Eurasian Studies.
Jennifer Moll ‘02
After graduating from Dickinson in 2002 with majors in Russian and International Studies, I moved to the UK to read for an MPhil in International Relations. My Master's thesis explored how Estonia's identity is affected by Russian foreign policy. After finishing her MPhil, I moved to Estonia to pursue similar research as part of a Fulbright scholarship, while also learning basic Estonian. After completing my studies, I moved back to London where I have worked in Corporate Intelligence teams, and continue to be focused on eastern Europe and Central Asia, while investigating reputational risk, fraud and corruption for multinational companies. As part of my job, I regularly travel to the region.
I regard my time spent in Moscow as the most formulative of my life and believe that the understanding and love of Russian language and culture that first grew at Dickinson has made me into the person I am today.
Suzanne Eshelman ‘05
I graduated from Dickinson College in 2005, having majored in Russian Language and Literature. I spent my junior year studying abroad in Moscow and consider the opportunities that I had in Moscow—to live with a wonderful host mother, Irina Nikolaevna, to study the language and culture in Putin’s Russia, to follow the rise and fall of the Russian oligarchs, and to see the beauty and personality of the country—to be some of her most fascinating and exciting experiences.
After Dickinson, I graduated from The Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law with a J.D. in 2008 and am admitted to practice law in Maryland. I am currently employed by the Maryland State Judiciary, where I work as a law clerk to the Hon. Nelson W. Rupp, Jr. in Rockville, Maryland.
I live in Washington, D.C. and enjoy reading, traveling, playing soccer, and being a Russia-watcher.
Wendy Whitehead Martelle ‘95
Wendy Whitehead Martelle
I attended Dickinson from 1991-1995 and chose a double major in International Studies and Russian. During my time at Dickinson, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Moscow, and gained a greater appreciation for Russian culture and history. After graduating from Dickinson in 1995, I served as an officer in the U.S. Navy until 2000, when I returned to Moscow and decided to continue my Russian studies at the MA level. In 2002 I received an MA in Russian Philology, with a focus on Russian Linguistics, from Moscow State University. After studying linguistics, I became fascinated not only with how the Russian language works, but also with how language as a whole works, and especially with issues related to second language acquisition. After graduating from MGU, I received a second MA in Applied Linguistics and am currently working towards a PhD in Applied Linguistics/Second Language Acquisition at the University of Pittsburgh, where my research focus is on the acquisition of Russian tense-aspect morphology among second language learners.