Partnership with Russian University Enhances Year of Russia Programming

March 22, 2017

A group of educators and students from one of Russia’s most prestigious universities spent a week in March at Kennesaw State University as part of a grant-funded project promoting collaboration between the two schools. The partnership is connected to Kennesaw State’s Year of Russia, a year-long series of events encouraging the study of Russian history and culture.

The delegation was from the Moscow State Institution of International Relations (MGIMO) and included Aleksei Dundich, a Lecturer in the Department of Applied International Analysis, as well as students Alina Kopylova, Natalia Artemenkova, Alisa Shcherbachenya, and Gleb Yuchenkov.

MGIMO Delegation to KSUFrom left to right: Dr. Thomas Rotnem, Aleksei Dundich, Alina Kopylova, Dr. Lance Askildson, Alisa Shcherbachenya, Natalia Artemenkova, Gleb Yuchenkov, and Dr. Dan Paracka

MGIMO is Russia’s premiere university for students with international aspirations. Its 6,000 students can take classes in international law, political science, economics, journalism, business management, and energy policy. MGIMO is a key training ground for future Russian policymakers.

Although the delegation was on campus to attend and present at the Year of Russia International Symposium, entitled U.S. – Russian Relations in Global Context, on March 16th and 17th, the visit included several additional days to visit Kennesaw State University. They attended political science and Russian classes with Kennesaw students, took meals in The Commons dining hall, and met with Dr. Robin Dorff, Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, and Dr. Lance Askildson, Vice-Provost and Chief International Officer.

The delegation also visited several Atlanta-area landmarks, including Stone Mountain Park, the Martin Luther King Jr. Center, the Georgia State Capitol, the World of Coca-Cola, the Etowah Indian Mounds, and the Booth Western Art Museum. Optional excursions to the Fox Theater and the Tabernacle concert venue were also available.

MGIMO DelegationMGIMO delegation at Year of Russia International Symposium

This experience was part of a wider collaboration between Kennesaw State and MGIMO that started in Fall 2016. Throughout the fall semester, MGIMO students and faculty participated in a series of twelve Skype sessions with students in Kennesaw State’s Russian Foreign Policy class. These international class discussions addressed NATO/Russian relations, the crisis in Ukraine, Russia’s actions in Syria, Russia’s global economic posture, and its growing relationship with China. In the lead up to these sessions, the Russian and U.S. students were provided the same materials and encouraged to create questions for each other.

This project created “increased opportunities for KSU students and faculty to be exposed to alternative views on controversial topics of current political import, while also allowing these key stakeholders to critically analyze problems and suggest ways to mitigate further conflict,” wrote Kennesaw State Professor Dr. Thomas Rotnem in the grant proposal that led to the partnership with MGIMO.

Dr. Rotnem, who is a professor in the Political Science and International Affairs department, received a Strategic Internationalization Grant from the Division of Global Affairs to collaborate with MGIMO during the 2016-2017 Year of Russia. In addition to facilitating the online class discussions, the grant also paid for the Russian students to fly to Kennesaw for the spring Year of Russia conference, and will pay for a delegation of Kennesaw State students and faculty to attend a similar conference in Moscow in May 2017.

MGIMO DelegationMGIMO Delegation speaks with Kennesaw State University President Sam Olens at Year of Russia International Symposium

Following the successful completion of the grant project, Dr. Rotnem hopes Kennesaw State will continue to build on the relationship established with MGIMO beyond the Year of Russia. One goal is to develop a faculty exchange program that could be expanded to include graduate students.

-Patrick Harbin