For many students, a quality internship experience is critical to success in the competitive job market after graduation, and we would like to eventually make such a supplementary educational experience a requirement. With that in mind, we would work towards creating an expanded network of internship/study abroad options which would facilitate our students’ academic and professional needs. Mechanisms and money also need to be in place to ensure that our existing exchange programs are further utilized.
Fruitful internship collaborations could involve trade, business, cultural, scientific and NGO organizations working in Russia, Eastern and Central Europe, and Central Asia, as well as more local opportunities of working within the state’s numerous Slavic ethnic communities, translation services, and cultural, social, trade companies and organizations with broad interests in the relevant parts of the world.
While we already have an active, annual Summer Program in Prague and are putting into place another summer program in Sochi, on the Black Sea, having a semester-long program in a major Russian university which is designed for undergraduates with two or more years of Russian as well as for graduate students in Slavic and REECAS (who may wish to take courses in their discipline in Russia) will be a definite boon to both programs. We are currently looking into possibility of collaborating with several universities, including those in Tomsk, Ekaterinburg, and Khabarovsk. We also envision, down the road, occasional exchange of faculty, from both Slavic and REECAS on our side.
Our successes do not mean that some aspects of our program are not in need of further improvement. We are constantly in the process of investigating our shortcomings and attempting to correct the situation. We do take the input of our students very seriously and, while keeping the basic core, restructure our curriculum regularly to meet the changing needs and interests of our students as well as the rapidly changing realities of the countries we cover.
Our undergraduates, we believe, are, overall, very well served. One, relatively minor, shortcoming is that we do not have a good system in place to serve the Russian “heritage” speakers, whose needs in language classes are different from those of non-heritage learners. We do have a sizable population of heritage speakers taking language courses from us (Russian is now the second most commonly-spoken non-English language in the state, after Spanish). Mixing the two groups works to the disadvantage of both, but our efforts to open special heritage sections so far have failed, mostly because of the lack of interest among the heritage speakers to be “segregated” into special sections. We probably have not done a successful enough PR job or implemented strict enough rules. Notably, several of our peers – Michigan, Berkeley, UCLA – do have separate sections of Russian for heritage speakers. The UCLA example detailed in this article – http://dailybruin.com/news/2006/dec/11/ucla-receives-grant-to-develop/ – is something we intend to emulate. We are now in the process of researching the grants we can apply for in order to achieve similar results.
Since our graduate program is fairly small, enrollments in purely graduate courses tend to be small as well. For years we were encouraged not to go on the books with low enrollments, so many of our upper-division courses had sections for graduate students. While we felt we had little choice, this had a negative effect on our graduate program since there is no substitute for the rigor and high standards of a truly graduate seminar. Our graduate students have felt this lack quite acutely as well, so starting with 2007-08 we have added more graduate seminars to our offerings and intend to offer at least two annually.
We also feel that while our graduate students are adequately trained professionally, more can be done to prepare them for teaching when they are first awarded a TAship. We are therefore re-instituting Pedagogy courses and workshops, which we had until 2005, to be taught and supervised by our Departmental Languages Coordinator, Dr. Bojan Belić.