May 01, 2011

On Things Russian

This spring I traveled to Bloomington, IN and Oxford, MS to speak to students, professors and Russian language teachers. While my ostensible assignment was to talk about my research, I also had a hidden agenda: I wanted to learn.

Perhaps it follows from 15 years in journalism, but I always find it fascinating to glimpse another person’s world for a day or so, to learn what they are doing in their corner of the Russian world. Too often routine isolates us from other parts of this world, and it is helpful to see what else is going on out there, if only to be reminded that one is not alone.

Both at Indiana University and at the annual CARTA conference (Russian professors and teachers in the South-Central U.S.) I got a sense of the hard work that is being done to teach Russian and Russian studies to American students, the incredible dedication and talent of Russian teachers, and the surging enthusiasm of the students. Despite strained fiscal circumstances for language study, most teachers I hear from around the country report strong, vibrant Russian programs. Certainly that is what I witnessed at both IU and Ole Miss.

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