Collaborations with Minority Serving Institutions and Community Colleges

As part of its 2014-18 Title VI Comprehensive National Resource Center grant, CSEES has built upon its long history of outreach to strengthen programming with community colleges and minority serving institutions. Since 2013, CSEES has worked with Dr. Amarilis Lugo de Fabritz at Howard University. In her own words:

For almost four years now, The Ohio State University has engaged in a partnership with Howard University’s Department of World Languages and Cultures to promote the study of Russian studies in all their dimensions, including language, literature, social sciences, and more. The support has taken multiple forms. The most tangible has been monetary support for program development, most importantly support for travel to the annual Midwest Slavic Conference, sponsored by the Midwest Slavic Association and the Center for Slavic and East European Studies. This conference features opportunities for undergraduates to present advanced research topics. Students from Howard University have had an opportunity to present on topics ranging from World War II military history, African-American intellectuals and their experience in the Soviet Union, and Vladimir Putin’s electoral campaigns.

Howard University is the only Historically Black University (HBCU) to offer Russian at any level… While no official statistics are kept of how many students of color — and of special interest for Howard University’s case, African-American students — study Russian nationwide, a quick survey of top programs across the country indicate that their numbers may not reach more than a few dozen on a good year.

This is why Howard University’s Russian language program is so important. Even if small in size when compared to the large programs across the country, such as University of Michigan and University of Washington, the impact that students engaged in Russian studies at Howard University represent a disproportionate number of African-Americans engaged in Russian studies across the country. Russian language classes, as happens in most universities across the country, are small but highly dedicated. However, the English language Russian content classes that cover literature, history and other topics related to the humanities and social sciences, tend to be fully enrolled. When looking at those numbers, undergraduate students at Howard University engaging in Russian area studies represent a significant percentage of African-American students engaged in the study of Russia and the Eurasian region.

Ohio State University’s support for Howard University’s program provides Howard University undergraduates valuable experience and mentorship opportunities for integrating Russia into their area of studies. It also provides the Russian instructor at Howard University, B. Amarilis Lugo de Fabritz, with invaluable actual material support. The Ohio State University has supported the purchase of classroom materials, provided Skype lectures to present different perspectives in the classroom, and provided financial support for travel to national conferences to expand her teaching and research skills. This year it provided support for Professor Alisa Ballard to present a talk on the evolution of Russian theater at Howard University.

CSEES has also partnered with Dr. Unislawa Williams at Spelman College, an alumna of Ohio State’s Department of Political Science and former Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellow. Dr. Williams taught the first course at Spelman to focus on Russian politics in spring semester 2017, and CSEES helped to fund visiting speakers to Spelman’s campus to enrich the larger student population’s ability to learn about Russia, as well as broadening interest in future offerings of the course. In September, Dr. Williams also participated in a conference in Poland, the 27th Economic Forum, to research how policy makers use data in their decisions.

On a national level, CSEES works with Title VI centers at Indiana University, University of California, Berkeley, University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Washington to run an annual curriculum development competition. The competitive application solicits proposals from faculty at community colleges and minority serving institutions who want to develop a new course or redesign an existing course that will have 25% or more content about Eastern Europe and/or Eurasia. This year two proposals were selected for funding, Dr. Dmitrii Sidorov at California State University, Long Beach, and Dr. Elizabeth McGuire at California State University, East Bay. Dr. Sidorov, an associate professor of geography, will use the funds to travel to Armenia. While in Armenia, he will explore the society and culture of the country and record video modules that will serve as “virtual field trips” for his students in an online course. The course is a geographical survey of the former Soviet Union, but through this redesign, he will be able to increase the content of the course that focuses on the Caucasus, more evenly covering different areas of the post-Soviet space. Dr. McGuire will the use the funds to create an entirely new course, “Communism as Civilization.” This course will be part of California State, East Bay’s history major offerings, as well as a general education course. The course will articulate into curricular themes, such as social justice. In the course, Dr. McGuire proposes to explore topics such as education, housing, and urban development in numerous countries throughout Eastern Europe and Eurasia to explore the different ways that these issues impacted and were perceived by populations in the different republics of the Soviet Union and its periphery.

Building upon these activities, CSEES will work with faculty at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado on similar curriculum projects in summer 2018. Stay tuned for our fall newsletter to hear about these activities!   

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