The Ellison Center Welcomes New Faculty and Visiting Scholars
Christine Aksenava comes to the University of Washington as a Russell Fellow from Minsk, Belarus. She received her Master’s degree in Linguistics from Minsk State Linguistic University in 2007, and a degree in International Economics from Belarus State Economic University in 2010. She currently teaches English as a Second Language at the English Language Center at Belarus State University where she specializes in business and technical English. While in Seattle she is taking courses in business communication and information behavior at the Foster School of Business and the iSchool. Aksenava finds that these courses “focus on fostering leadership and team building skills among business students,” and the course content is doubly important for her research in information literacy.
Because the field of information literacy is not well developed in Belarus, Aksenava hopes to take advantage of the resources available to her here in Seattle. She chose the University of Washington because it is well known for its studies in information, communication and technology literacy. She is researching the development of information literacy and how it correlates to business success. Aksenava says that career success in business depends upon how well employees are able to access and use information. She has written an article on information literacy and how it is used in high school, as well as two articles examining Russian and Belarusian translations of original English works.
When she returns to Belarus, Aksenava plans to integrate her research into the business English curriculum. She hopes to create an educational model that companies can use to train their employees and develop information literacy. Aksenava plans to pursue a doctoral degree in information technology. She would like to incorporate her education and research from linguistics and international economics into this field.
This visit is Aksenava’s first time in Seattle and the United States. She has enjoyed Seattle thus far, and finds the city’s close proximity to water ideal. She explains, “To balance myself, I like to go to places where there is water, lakes, or mountains.” Aksenava hopes to do some traveling before she returns home, and may attend a symposium in Chicago on digital ethics. Her dream, though, is to go to Hawaii, “for a New Year’s celebration without snow.”
Adam Kozuchowski is the visiting Fulbright Lecturer from Poland for the 2011-2012 academic year. Originally from Lodz, he now lives in Warsaw where he works at the Polish Academy of Sciences. His department at the Academy specifically researches Central and East European social and intellectual history of the 19th century. Kozuchowski completed his PhD at the Academy and wrote his dissertation, “The Afterlife of Austro-Hungary,” on the historiography of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. A year ago, he published a book based on this dissertation.
In his first quarter at UW, Kozuchowski is teaching a course on the urban history of Russia and Poland, a general introduction to the urbanization of Eastern Europe. The course focuses on Saint Petersburg, Moscow, Odessa, Vilnius, Lviv, and other Polish cities. Winter quarter he will teach the history of the intelligentsia in Russia and Poland, which in contrast to the fall quarter course, focuses on more abstract and social issues. Finally, in the spring Kozuchowski will teach a course concerning nationalism and ethnic conflict in Eastern Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries. All three courses are interdisciplinary and draw on literature, journalism, scholarly texts and other sources.
Before coming to UW, Kozuchowski taught for one year at Warsaw University and for a few weeks during a summer program in Poland. This experience is new and has its obstacles. “It’s a challenge for me to teach in English,” he claims. He also expresses difficulty in learning the etiquette of the American university classroom, and explains that this experience “demands many more communicative skills” beyond language. Because his courses are interdisciplinary, students often come with varying levels of knowledge regarding the region about which he teaches. This fact also presents a challenge. “The cultural and historical context is lacking so I have to sell my message to people who don’t have any common background [with me].” Kozuchowski is overcoming these challenges, and he finds that his stay here will be profitable. “I think this will remain with me for the rest of time.” He would like to teach when he returns to Poland, but he says that this is not easy and that the “educational business is in a real crisis” because of a demographic crisis and a decline in the humanities for the past 20 years.
While at UW, Kozuchowski also hopes to conduct his own research. “I just need to find some free time and energy to do that,” he says. His current project is a comparative historiography of Poland and Germany. He says that within the next two years he should have another publication focusing on the historiographies of the Holy Roman Empire and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. In addition to this, he plans to write additional theory-based articles and possibly translate his first book into English.
When asked about his first impressions of Seattle and UW, Kozuchowski exclaims, “You are great!” He also speaks very highly of the Slavic department and the Polish Endowment Committee which invited him here. He is very impressed with the working attitude here, and claims, “I wouldn’t survive without the help of Shosh Westen,” and that “The level of assistance I received from the staff here … is much better than in Poland, and I would say even Western Europe.” This visit is his first time visiting the west coast. In reference to Seattle, he says “when the weather is nice, it is amazing,” and that this is “the best located city [he has] ever seen… but then the clouds appear.” He also hopes to travel and visit other cities on the West Coast while he is here.
Vugar Salamli came to UW as a Humphrey Fellow from Baku, Azerbaijan, where he is the co-founder of the OL! AzerbaijanYouth Movement. He holds a Master’s degree in finance and has worked in communications and management at BP Azerbaijan as well as in journalism. While here at the University of Washington, Salamli is taking courses at the Evans School of Public Affairs and meeting with local organizations to develop further his nonprofit management skills.
Salamli co-founded OL! with the purpose of promoting democratic values and facilitating academic discussion in Azerbaijan. “For a country that recently got its independence, it’s crucial to spread these ideas because they are so new, especially for a country which was under the Soviet Empire for the past seventy years,” states Salamli. The Internet plays a critical role in the facilitation of his organization’s mission through hosting videos, blogs and online discussions. Salamli says that this strategy is key as there are few media outlets in Azerbaijan for this type of public forum. He is pleased with the success of the online tools in a country that does not have wide Internet availability. He explains that the independent nature of the organization does, however, present some challenges. “When you are independent in this country, the government really starts to consider you as opposition.” OL! does not receive support from the government of Azerbaijan or local universities and therefore relies on member donations and aid from foreign organizations such as the National Endowment for Democracy. He also stresses that, though the government may view OL! as opposition in nature, the organization is non-political and does not present itself as political opposition.
For the past two years, Salamli has been directing one of OL!’s projects: “Free Thought University.” This project is a series of educational lectures aimed at students, but it draws all age groups. Lectures topics include human rights, freedom of speech, the economy and more. He says that “Free Thought University” offers discussions and perspectives that are generally not available in Azerbaijan, even in the universities, and that it is filling “a gap which is needed for the young people.” The project has found wide-reaching success with roughly 2000 participants attending over 200 lectures to date. Asked what he plans to do when he returns to Azerbaijan, Salamli responds, “I hope to do a better job, be more effective than before.” Because “Free Thought University” is successful, he plans to focus primarily on the sustainability of OL!, to use more media tools to support OL!’s current projects and to focus more on the regions outside of Baku.
Salamli previously visited the United States in 2009, on a trip sponsored by the US Library of Congress. He also spent time at Virginia Tech before flying to Seattle. He says about Seattle, “So far, it’s a very nice city.” When talking about what he predicts his experience will be like for the remainder of his stay, Salamli says “I depend on the people, not on nature… in this respect, I think it will be amazing.”
Nadya Trach joins UW as a Russell Fellow researching language, identity, and state policy with respect to Ukraine. Originally from western Ukraine, she currently works and resides in Kyiv. She received her PhD in 2009 at the Yuri Fed’kovych Chernivtsi National University, where she focused on the history of Ukrainian legal terminology in the 20th century. Trach teaches as an Assistant Professor in the Ukrainian Language department at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. She is also the editor of the “Dukh i Litera” publishing house in Kyiv. With twelve articles published to date, Trach has written pieces on various topics, including legal terminology in Ukrainian, the Russification of the Ukrainian language, and the relationship between language and identity.
In her post-doctoral research, Trach studies language and identity in contemporary Ukraine. She contends that the language situation there is extremely complex and plays a major role in the formation of national identity, especially in the differences between past and present state administrations. More specifically she is exploring the relationship between the current language reality in Ukraine and state policy, and how they affect one another. When she returns to Ukraine, Trach plans to incorporate her research into the Ukrainian language curriculum for her students’ benefit. She also intends to write a series of articles on state policy and language identity. One question Trach wishes to pursue in the future is the identity “among young people who were born in independent Ukraine … Is this a post-Soviet identity or not? Is this a transregional identity or not? And is it connected with language?”
Trach’s visit is her first to the United States. She says Washington reminds her of her home in western Ukraine, and the beauty of Seattle reminds her of Kyiv. She hopes to explore the city and the natural surroundings during her stay. Trach’s first impressions of UW are positive, saying, “I like the University very much; it’s a very beautiful and comfortable place, especially with the spirit of education here.”