Director's Notes, Spring 2024

Dear friends and colleagues, happy new year!

It’s now long past the date when people celebrate the “old new year.” Even so, it seems like throughout January I should still be able to send out best wishes for a wonderful 2024.

As we near the two year mark of Russia’s full-scale war on Ukraine, at the Center for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies we continue to balance our commitments, horrified at the loss of life and infrastructure, the suffering and misery this current war brings and hopeful that our work educating people in the U.S. and beyond and making connections between our country and the East European and Eurasian world will make a difference. With that in mind, we thought we would share with you some of what we have been up to. 

At the end of 2023 we sent off our last report on the U.S. State Department grant that funded our Serbian Educational Alliance, noting the significant outcomes and deliverables: from friendships to conversations about pedagogy and students, to research publications and more. We seek to maintain the relationships we’ve made since 2020 with the Faculty of Political Science at the University of Belgrade and to increase Ohio State’s interactions with Serbia moving forward.

Given the complications of travel to parts of Eastern Europe these days, our summer Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellows studied in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Vermont. This year’s academic year FLAS fellows are pursuing Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian, Polish, Russian and Turkish studies on campus. We’ll be assessing summer and academic year FLAS applicants next month and look forward to supporting more students. We love being able to help students come closer to their fluency goals, and we are so grateful to continue to have the U.S. Department of Education funding that helps us do so. Both our first-year MA students in the Center this year are funded through FLAS—Liam Martin is studying Russian, and Luke Bendick is studying Polish.

Speaking of Polish, we welcomed our third Fulbright Polish Scholar this semester, Agnieszka Poczta-Wajda from the Poznan University of Economics and Business. While in the U.S. Agnieszka is teaching a course at Ohio State on entitled “The Polish Economy: Economic Policy and Relations with the European Union” and making a lot of research connections. We will also send her out into the Polish community in Ohio to help raise awareness about our Polish programming. We continue to offer funding to students and faculty through the Polish Studies Initiative (PSI), and we’re highlighting PSI through the Polish Studies Film Series Agnieszka and CSEEES outreach coordinator Alicia Baca are running. We are proud of Polish studies opportunities at and through Ohio State, but we’ll need to refill the PSI coffers in coming years. In fact, this spring we are launching a significant fundraising effort, including inviting our many PSI alumni to “pay it forward” for the next generations. 

If you missed the story on our website about our outreach programs, do check it out here. In it, Alicia describes autumn semester initiatives, including talks at the Columbus Council on World Affairs, the Global Fellowship Program and the Engaging Eurasia Teacher Fellowship (EETF). We were particularly honored to be the host of this year’s in-person session of EETF focused on cross-cultural exchange in Central Asia. We brought 12 teachers from across the United States to the Ohio State campus to participate in a day of exciting lectures and exhibits that allowed them to meet each other in person and will help them in their curriculum development throughout the year.

Collaborations with fellow area studies centers on campus and across the U.S. for spring continue to bring new excitement, including the Queer Focus virtual series this semester that seeks to advance conversations about decolonization in East European and Eurasian studies. We held an official opening of our Free Little Library in Hagerty Hall with the other area studies centers, providing books in languages for which we offer FLAS. And outreach includes the annual Olympiada competitions for spoken Russian which will take place in February for undergraduates and March for K-12 students. 

We are also very excited about the “On the Ground” courses created to teach B/C/S, Polish and Romanian languages and cultures on the ScarletCanvas platform. Developed by our language instructors along with the Office of Distance Education, these courses are available for the general public to explore in an asynchronous, self-paced manner the languages and cultures of the region.

We are eagerly anticipating this year’s Midwest Slavic Conference, focused around the theme of Cold Wars Past and Present. Please consider coming to engage with the students and scholars who will present their work. I have been so proud of our Center staff as they continue to support Russian language teaching at Columbus International High School, balance all bureaucratic requirements with genuine intellectual creativity, and offer a welcoming home for all things Slavic, East European and Eurasian at Ohio State.

With hopes of seeing you in 2024,