Student News

REEEC congratulates the following student award winners and the Summer 2017 FLAS fellows:

2017 Yaro Skalnik Prize for the Best Graduate Essay in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies:

  • Felix Cowan (PhD Student in History) for his essay, “Beyond Urban Boundaries: The Penny Press and Lower-Class Integration in the Russian Empire”
  • Daria Semenova (PhD Student in Slavic Languages and Literatures) for her essay, “A Robinson for an awakening nation: a case study on a translation which is not one”

Summer 2017 FLAS Fellows:

  • Tyler Dolan (PhD Student in Slavic Languages and Literatures) for Russian
  • Jacob Goldsmith (PhD Student in Slavic Languages and Literatures) for Russian
  • LeiAnna Hamel (PhD Candidate in Slavic Languages and Literatures) for Yiddish
  • Douglas Heintz (MS Candidate in Library and Information Science) for Russian
  • Marco Jaimes (PhD Candidate in History) for Czech
  • Jennifer Jenson (PhD Student in German Studies) for Russian
  • Benjamin Krupp (PhD Student in Anthropology) for Russian
  • Thornton Miller (PhD Candidate in Musicology) for Russian
  • Hannah Werner (PhD Student in History) for Yiddish

FLAS Fellow Benjamin Wheeler Starts a Radio Show in Tbilisi, Georgia

Benjamin Wheeler

REEEC FLAS Fellow Benjamin Wheeler (PhD Candidate in Ethnomusicology) has spent the 2016-2017 academic year in Tbilisi, Georgia, studying Georgian and Anthropology at Tbilisi State University. While attending classes at a local university, he has started an English-language radio show on the university’s radio channel (GIPA FM 94.3) called “Caucasus All Frequency,” which plays music from the Caucasus region and explores “the many meanings and unique stories behind the music.”

Check out Ben’s show at: https://soundcloud.com/radiogipa/caucasus-all-frequency

Study Abroad in Odessa, Ukraine (Summer 2016)

Thanks to a generous REEEC grant, I spent last June and July studying Russian in Odessa, Ukraine.  I shared an apartment with my friends Nadia and Tyler, UIUC Slavic Ph.D. students.  We all took intensive Russian classes at the Odessa Language Study Centre.  Nadia and Tyler took individual courses, while I decided to take a group class, which I would describe as a mixed bag.  On one hand, my language instructor Olga was incredible – like the other teachers at OLSC, she had many years of experience teaching Russian to international students in Odessa.  She also had a great sense of humor (sample Olga-ism: “My conscience is clean, I never use it”) and a keen interest in delineating cultural differences and similarities, sharing her perception of the local worldview (e.g. “U nas net feminizma,” “We don’t have feminism [here]”) and opinions on pressing social issues like political corruption (including a memorable anecdote about the “musornaia [garbage] mafia” chasing one of her students out of town for proposing the establishment of a municipal recycling system).  On the other hand, a group class entails accommodating students of varying levels – as a result, the first few weeks of class were a bit too rudimentary for me.  Private instruction is more expensive, but in retrospect, I should have opted for one-on-one lessons.  That being said, I still got a lot out of my classes with Olga, and I highly recommend OLSC to anyone who wants to study Russian in Odessa.

Odessa is a predominantly Russian-speaking city; culturally, it’s also quite “Russian,” a testament to its history as part of the Russian Empire and Soviet Union. Around 2500 years ago, current-day Odessa was a Greek colony; later, it was part of the Crimean Khanate, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and the Ottoman Empire.  Following the Russo-Turkish War of 1787-1792, the city of Odessa was founded in 1794 by Catherine the Great’s decree.  Although originally valued for its strategic significance as a warm-water port on the Black Sea, Odessa quickly became one of the largest cities in the Russian Empire.  Due in part to its port-city status, it also become an exceptionally diverse cultural center, fostering a vibrant, cosmopolitan atmosphere that persists to this day.

As places to spend the summer go, Odessa is hard to beat.  Our apartment was a five-minute walk from Lanzheron Beach, apparently one of the nicer beaches in the area – “apparently” because once we found “our” beach, we went back to the same spot at least once or twice a week without much further exploration.  Lanzheron Beach has a cute boardwalk with several restaurants and beachside cafes (we were regulars at Prichal No. 1).  In general, downtown Odessa is filled with great bars and restaurants – some of my favorites were Dacha (a restaurant in a gorgeous 19th-century country estate), Kompot (traditional Ukrainian cuisine, kitschy Soviet décor), and Dzhondzholi (delicious Georgian food).  Odessites are also very proud of their stunning opera house (where we saw a nice production of Carmen), and the lovely Palais-Royal Garden is right around the corner.  For night owls and party animals, Odessa’s “Arkadia” region is also worth checking out – it has several huge clubs with pool complexes and regular concerts and DJs.

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The Odessa National Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet

Among Slavists, Odessa is known for its role in literary and film history.  In 1823, Pushkin wrote several chapters of his verse novel Eugene Onegin when he lived in the city during his “southern exile.”  Gogol wrote the second volume of Dead Souls in Odessa from 1850-1851 (he famously burned the manuscript).  Several notable Russian-language writers were native Odessites, including Ilf and Petrov, Yury Olesha, and Isaac Babel, whose “Odessa Tales” are set in the city.  Odessa’s place in literary history is memorialized by statues all over town, as well as by the Odessa Pushkin Museum and the Soviet-era Literature Museum.  Odessa was immortalized in a famous film sequence in Sergei Eisenstein’s “Battleship Potemkin” (1925).  The city was an important filmmaking center before and during the Soviet era, and it hosts the wonderful Odessa International Film Festival every summer.

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Memorial Plaque on N.V. Gogol’s Odessa Residence

 

Although downtown Odessa is beautiful and quite safe, there is a lot of poverty in surrounding areas.  In addition to the general economic decline in Ukraine, Odessa formerly benefitted from an influx of Russian tourists every summer, which (for obvious reasons) has dried up since the annexation of Crimea and War in Donbass.  However, there are ongoing efforts to revitalize Odessa as a tourist center, including (usually free) cultural events that take place all summer long.  It’s also an extremely affordable place to live, even on a graduate student budget (the silver lining of the region’s economic woes, from a foreigner’s perspective).  Most locals aren’t fluent in English, making life in Odessa a truly immersive language-learning experience – if you want to order food at a restaurant, you’ll have to work on your Russian.

Overall, I found Odessa to be a fascinating and beautiful city.  I’d particularly recommend it as a study abroad destination for language students, especially since there’s no need to get a student visa (by all accounts one of the more frustrating parts of studying in Russia).  I’m certainly planning to go back as soon as possible.

Matthew McWilliams is a REEES M.A. student and a FLAS Fellow for the 2016-2017 academic year for the study of Russian. 

Careers at UN and International Organizations

On November 2nd, about 200 University of Illinois undergraduate and graduate students and staff had the opportunity to learn about career opportunities at the United Nations and International Organizations. John Eircson (Chief of Outreach Unit, Office of Human Resource Management at United Nations) presented on employment opportunities at the UN and provided students with an overview of the application and qualifications process. Peride Blind (Governance and Public Administration Officer, Department of Economics and Social Affairs at United Nations) shared her own career trajectory from research to working for the United Nations and gave students an insight into what a position at the U.N. might involve. A panel of University of Illinois alums working for international organizations, several of whom were FLAS fellows, shared their own work experiences and offered advice to students on how to explore international careers. The Panel included: Mac Steele (People & Culture Partner at Rotary International), Alexandra Lively (UN Delegate at OSMTH), Tamar Frolichstein-Appel (Sr. Employment Services Associate at Upwardly Global), Ping Li (Former UN Department of Management Intern/ Ph.D student in HRD), Lenore Matthew (Consultant at ILO Headquarters /Ph.D student in Social Work).  Organizations, including the United Nations, Rotary international, Upwardly Global, Peace Corps, University of Illinois Area Centers, AIESEC UIUC, and UNICEF UIUC also hosted resource tables and provided networking opportunities for students. The popular event was hosted by the Career Center and Area Studies Centers at the University of Illinois.

2016-2017 FLAS Fellows

REEEC would like to recognize our AY 2016-2017 FLAS Fellows. Congratulations to all!

Graduate Students:

  • Kate Butterworth, Library and Information Science (Georgian)
  • Tyler Dolan, Slavic Languages and Literatures (Russian)
  • Kyle Estes, Political Science (Kyrgyz)
  • Kathleen Gergely, REEEC (Russian)
  • Nadia Hoppe, Slavic Languages and Literatures (Russian)
  • Benjamin Krupp, Anthropology (Russian)
  • Matthew McWilliams (Russian)
  • Lucy Pakhnyuk, REEEC (Ukrainian)
  • Morgan Shafter, Slavic Languages and Literatures (Russian)
  • Serenity Orengo, Slavic Languages and Literatures (Russian)
  • Hannah Werner, History (Yiddish)
  • Benjamin Wheeler, Musicology (Georgian)

Undergraduate Students:

  • Sharadyn Ciota, Political Science (Russian)
  • Vladimir Potiyevskiy, Liberal Arts and Sciences (Russian)
AY 2016-2017 FLAS Fellows

AY 2016-2017 FLAS Fellows Matthew McWilliams, Lucy Pakhnyuk, Kate Butterworth, Nadia Hoppe, Sharadyn Ciota, Kathleen Gergely, and Serenity Orengo

Spring Reception 2016

REEEC celebrated the end of the academic year with its annual Spring Reception on Friday, May 13. Students, faculty, staff, and guests enjoyed refreshments provided by Pekara Bakery. During the reception, student award winners and graduating students were recognized. Matthew Klopfenstein (Ph.D. student in History) was named the winner of the 2016 Yaro Skalnik Prize for his essay entitled “Modernity and the Task of Ozdorovlenie: Russian Doctors and the Discourse of Social Hygiene.” Summer 2016 FLAS fellows were announced (please see here for the list of fellows). Graduating REEEC M.A. students Bethany Wages and Emily Lipira, and graduating undergraduate students Gabriella Repala (REEEC) and Medina Spiodic (Economics with a REEEC minor) were also recognized for their achievements in REEE studies. The REEEC staff wishes everyone a wonderful summer! We hope to see you all again in the fall!

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Spring 2016 Honors

REEEC would like to congratulate the following student award winners:

2016 Yaro Skalnik Prize for Best Student Essay

Graduate Student – Matthew Klopfenstein for his essay, “Modernity and the Task of Ozdorovlenie: Russian Doctors and the Discourse of School Hygiene” written for HIST 594 – Introduction to Historical Writing (Spring 2016) taught by Tamara Chaplin and Nils Jacobsen (paper adviser, Mark Steinberg).

Summer 2016 FLAS Fellows

Graduate Students

  • Jeffrey Castle (Germanic Languages and Literatures) – Czech
  • Frederick Miller (Music) – Russian
  • Tyler Dolan (Slavic Languages and Literatures) – Russian
  • LeiAnna Hamel (Slavic Languages and Literatures) – Russian

Undergraduate Students

  • Sharadyn Ciota (Political Science) – Russian
  • Ariel Glaviano (Applied Health Sciences) – Russian

REEEC would also like to congratulate the following graduating students:

M.A. in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies

  • Emily Lipira
  • Bethany Wages

B.A. in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies

  • Gabriella Repala