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Grant will support KU's Russian studies outreach in Kansas schools

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

LAWRENCE — A $120,000 grant from the U.S.-Russia Foundation will support University of Kansas outreach efforts to create a series of academic programs that will expand Russian language and Russian studies opportunities for Kansas high school students.

The Department of Slavic and Eurasian Languages & Literatures (SELL) and the Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies (CREES) at KU have been awarded a grant titled “A Comprehensive Plan for Creating a Russian Studies Pipeline in Kansas High Schools,” led by Ani Kokobobo, chair and associate professor of Slavic languages & literatures. Work begins in January 2021.

Building on the strength of the first USRF grant KU received this fall that focused on outreach to local K-12 schools, this new grant focuses specifically on Kansas high school students and emphasizes Russian language in addition to Russian studies. 

In partnership with the Kansas Department of Education, KU will offer a five-part webinar, “Why Russia Matters,” with interdisciplinary lectures from KU faculty members and alumni. High school students will get snapshots of Russian culture, literature, language, history and politics, as well as discover the career paths stemming from Russian studies.

The project also will include hosting a “Russia Week” for five days on the KU campus in summer 2021. Twenty high school students will receive a cultural introduction to contemporary Russia and Russian culture while also receiving a brief introduction of Russian language from KU instructors. Kokobobo and fellow faculty members Oleksandra Wallo and Irina Six are planning the events and curriculum.

These two milestones will help launch the academic year portion of the project, a one-year, grant-funded introductory Russian sequence taught online through KU for interested high school students to take free of charge. SELL has recently been developing the Russian sequence online through a digital, open-access textbook, Mezhdu nami, that was developed at KU and is used by programs across the nation. They will adapt the language sequence for high school students, and the course will be taught by one of the department’s experienced graduate teaching assistants.

In fall 2021, consultants will meet with these students and Russian studies university students about career opportunities and career marketing. Specifically, they will address with the students about the benefits of learning a foreign language like Russian, classified as a critical language by the U.S. Department of State.

“At every non-academic job interview I’ve ever had, whenever I brought up that I had invested time and energy to learn a rigorous and challenging language like Russian, the interviewer always gave my application extra consideration,” Kokobobo said. “It was a credential that spoke for itself. Many of our alumni have gone on to have highly successful careers in the private sector and in government/intelligence, where they use their language skills to get a leg up professionally and advance their work.”

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