from the national tragedy to talk about the 2009-2010 cohort’s experiences over the course of their six-week trip, during which the group enjoyed trips to the aforementioned chocolate factory and notable sites in gorgeous St. Petersburg, along with visits to Red Square, St. Basil’s Cathedral, and the formal royal estates Kolomenskoye and Tsaritsino on the outskirts of Moscow.
In addition to language proficiency, what do you most hope students will take from the program?
First, in terms of language proficiency, we hope that our students not only gain a fluency in Russian overall but also a working knowledge of terminology and vocabulary in their chosen field of study and/or profession. In addition to language proficiency, we hope that our students acquire an in-depth understanding of Russian culture and traditions as well as modern Russian life, including economics, media, education, healthcare, religion, and Russian identity.
How did some of the students' experiential field trips contribute to these broader goals?
The students have the opportunity to gain a very well-rounded perspective of Russia and Russian life while here. They interact with presidents of companies like Kazmunaygaz, a Russia-Kazakhstan joint oil production and refinement company. During this particular visit, the president gave a lecture that was then followed by a roundtable discussion on the caveats of oil, energy, and business in Russia as opposed to the rest of the world. Questions from students were thoughtful and inquisitive, ranging from "What are your thoughts on cutting off the oil or gas supplies to entire countries?" to "Will Russia's Silicon Valley project, Skolkovo, accomplish the current administration’s goals of technological advancement and allow Russia to be even more competitive with the U.S.? How will Skolkovo affect the U.S.?" Our speaker engaged the students greatly and answered each question thoroughly and completely.
Another particularly interesting aspect of the program included a furthering of our students’ understanding of the Russian education system through a visit to one of Moscow’s most revered lyceums, known as the Humanitarian Institute of Television and Radio named after M.A. Litovchin. The students were able to meet the president of the lyceum and institute, Dr. Yuri Litovchin, whose father was the founder, and to compare and contrast the Russian education system with that of the U.S. This field trip was extremely valuable because our students learned firsthand how the education system works in Russia.
What are some of the fields and professions in which students intend to integrate these cultural experiences and their Russian proficiency in the future?
Several of our students each year desire to enter government service. Other fields that our students are often interested in include linguistics, international relations, national security, international law, and international business.
All members of CSUN’s Russian SLI cohort are now safely home, reflecting on their journey and preparing their final project, an independently designed field research study that must be presented entirely in Russian. Through this key component of the program students demonstrate their proficiency in Russian language and cultural knowledge while showcasing individual academic and professional interests, at once reviewing their SLI Program experiences and progress as learners and previewing anticipated practical applications as future leaders. It is for Mokhnatkin and her students a triumphant end to an exhilarating and tumultuous year, wildfire evacuations and all.
— Submitted by Teresa K. Morrison
Just two years ago, Dr. Horace Engdahl, then-secretary of the jury that awards the Nobel Prize for literature, widely dismissed the relevancy of American thinkers on the multicultural stage when he declared to the Associated Press, "The U.S. is too isolated, too insular. They don’t translate enough and don’t really participate in the big dialogue of literature… That ignorance is restraining." Engdahl wasn’t the first critic—nor would he be the last—to accuse U.S. citizens of being a bit incurious regarding multicultural phenomena.
Engdahl might be surprised to learn of the CSU Consortium for the Strategic Language Initiative Program, a federally funded educational objective offering accelerated instruction in the internationally critical languages Arabic, Korean, Persian, Mandarin, and Russian—along with cultural immersion in the communities and countries of origin. SLI Consortium Director KimOanh Nguyen-Lam notes that the program’s value to international U.S. relations makes it a natural for congressional funding, which comes by way of a Defense spending appropriation cosponsored by Sen. Barbara Boxer and several House representatives from California. "It seems that over half of our SLI participants show a keen interest in exploring positions with the government, especially in diplomatic and foreign services," says Nguyen-Lam. "There is an increased understanding of the role of cross-cultural/cross-language collaboration in generating global peace and good will."
Boris Nestoiter, a 23-year-old member of the 2010-2011 Russian SLI cohort, is just one CSUN student whose SLI experience will yield ongoing dividends for U.S. investment. "I’m interested in entering government service," says Nestoiter, currently in his junior year at CSUN, "and this program will open many doors for me in various fields of government service." Nestoiter, who grew up in a Russianspeaking household in West Hollywood, continues, "As an...continued on page 3