Welcome and a Letter from the Director

REEEC Director Dr. Richard Tempest

Welcome to our new location and format for REEEC Center News. In the past, we have circulated a quarterly paper newsletter which has been replaced with a monthly email update from the Center that links to full-length articles on this blog, other websites that contain news about members of our community and general information about upcoming events. If you are not already signed up for our monthly e-news updates, please submit a request to be added to our mailing list here. I hope that you sign up for our email updates and visit our blog regularly for faculty news, alumni updates, articles written by our students, and other announcements that REEEC has to share.

The past year has been a time of many successes, some challenges, and quite a few changes in the REEEC office. There is a great deal to tell, so I shall try to be both brief and informative. Anyway, here goes!

REEEC’s continuing Title VI success is an indication of our university’s and faculty’s high national standing and was made possible by the exceptionally hard work of the entire REEEC staff, as well as longtime Assistant to the Director Merrily Shaw, who came back from retirement to help out with the proposal. Many of our faculty played a big part, including former REEEC Directors Diane Koenker, Mark Steinberg, and Donna Buchanan, as well as members of the REEEC Executive Committee, and I am very grateful to each and every one.

The results of the Title VI competition were announced at the end of July 2010,  2010-11 was the first year of our new US Department of Education Title VI award, which amounted to a record a 51% increase over the previous cycle. Our annual theme for AY 2010-11 was “Borderlands.” This theme helped shape our schedule of events for the year. There were notable academic gatherings, such as the Midwestern Russian History Workshop for PhD candidates (October 8-9, 2010, co-organized with History), the REEEC Annual Conference on “New Postsocialist Ontologies and Politics” (March 11-12, organized by Zsuzsa Gille of Sociology), the annual Joint Area Centers’ Symposium on “Iran at Large: The Global Emergence of a Regional Power?” (April 1-2, 2011, co-organized with CSAMES), and the Ralph and Ruth Fisher Forum on “Finding a Place in the Soviet Empire: Cultural Production and the Friendship of Nations” (June 27-28, organized by Gennady Estraikh, NYU, Hebrew Studies, and Harriet Murav, Slavic).  Where invited lectures are concerned, an exhaustive list of all of our 2010-2011 events, can be found on our REEEC calendar. It is also worth noting that the last lecture of our 2010-2011 academic year was part of a REEEC-organized 80th birthday celebration for Professor Keith Hitchens of History, a much-loved figure on our campus whose contribution to the university and the discipline is known to every REEEC faculty and student.

Now about that Title VI cut. As we all know, pursuant to a congressional mandate, the Secretary for Education reduced the Title VI allocation for 2011-12 by about 46%. Despite this painful blow, our core mission for the next academic year remains intact. We will support a number of our planned initiatives including faculty and practitioner hires in Sociology, Informatics and Law, collaborations with other campus units and NRCs, funding for LCTLs in the Slavic Department and funding for the Turkish Lectureship in the Department of Linguistics. More broadly, we will advance area-related teacher training at all levels, through K-14 curriculum development workshops and the introduction of K-16 teacher training modules; further professionalize the REEEC MA program; enhance collaborations with the professional schools and campus/off-campus NRCs; expand linkages to two-year colleges; leverage university and foundation development funds; and strengthen our program through an ongoing professional evaluation endeavor with the other campus area centers.

In March 2011 the Center submitted its annual proposal to the US Department of State Title VIII program, the chief source of funding for the Summer Research Lab and the Slavic Reference Service (SRS). The results were announced on June 2 and they were excellent: Illinois was awarded the grant with a 7% increase as compared with last year’s award. It should be noted that this year’s Title VIII was the most competitive to date, and my thanks go to our new Associate Director, Alisha Kirchoff, and the Manager of SRS, Helen Sullivan, who did sterling work on the proposal.

REEEC’s fundraising efforts were by no means limited to our two federal grants. With strong LAS backing, the Center and the Slavic Department successfully completed negotiations with the Chicago-based Foundation for Ukrainian Studies at the University of Illinois (FUSUI) for the establishment of a lectureship in Ukrainian language and culture for 2011-15. A national search for the lectureship was conducted in January-April 2011, and the position was offered to Dr. Volodymyr Chumachenko, formerly a Visiting Lecturer in Ukrainian in Slavic, who has accepted. REEEC, Slavic, and all Illinois students who are interested in the language and culture of Ukraine are tremendously thankful to Mrs. Raisa Bratkiv, the President of FUSUI, and Dmytro Stohryn, Emeritus Professor of Library Science, for their generosity and support.

Some other noteworthy accomplishments. A one-month REEE study abroad program with Estonia’s Tartu University was put in place last year, following a visit by Professor Valeria Sobol (Slavic) to Tartu, St. Petersburg, and Kiev in June-July 2010. Undergraduates at REEEC and other programs can now spend a month in those three cities attending REEE-related courses organized and supervised by Tartu University. The program was set up in collaboration with the University of Illinois Study Abroad Office, which will be responsible for its administration.

Professor David Cooper (Slavic) has just returned from the Czech Republic where he carried out preparatory work to set up a summer Czech language program for students at Illinois and other US institutions of higher learning that will satisfy FLAS requirements for length of language study. David’s mission was a success and I am confident that the program will be in place for next summer.

As many of those in c0mmunity are already well aware, Alisha Kirchoff joined the Center as Associate Director in July 2010. She quickly mastered her new brief, proving to be an able and proactive administrator of our Title VI and Title VIII grants. She made a major contribution to the success of our 2011-14 Block Grant proposal, which will bring in $15,000 over that three-year period. Alisha’s careful stewardship of the Center budget has put us in the fortunate position of being able to fulfill our Title VI mission for next year.

Despite certain budgetary uncertainties, REEEC maintains its commitment to offering high quality programming and activities to the campus community at Illinois and beyond.  If you have suggestions for speakers that REEEC should invite to campus for a lecture presentation, please fill out our new online speaker recommendation form and we will consider your input for future REEEC events. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of REEEC staff and support from our faculty and campus community 2011-2012 promises to be an eventful, successful year. We look forward to receiving feedback from our colleague about what we can do to further improve upon our events and activities.


Dr. Richard Tempest

In addition to his current term of service as REEEC Director, Dr. Richard Tempest is an Associate Professor in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literature at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. His research interests include Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Russian Literature; Solzhenitsyn; Russian Intellectual History; Russian and East European Pop Culture; Russian and East European Science Fiction; Bulgarian History, Literature and Culture; and Political Bodies.

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