As a part of the Open World Leadership Program, MSUM hosted six Russian leaders from non-government organizations in an attempt to learn more about accountable governance, American society, culture and way of life.
The Open World Leadership Program, which began in 1999 and is run by Congress, has worked with MSUM in the past. Due to some personal ties to Russia, MSUM political science professor Andrew Conteh, helped to write a proposal to bring the group to MSUM.
During their stay in Moorhead from Oct. 21 through Oct. 29, the group of six Russians stayed with host families in Moorhead. They toured a wide variety of local facilities including coffee shops, the Plains Art Museum, the Forum newspaper, the KVLY TV station and Rhombus Guys Pizza.
The delegates also spent time touring the MSUM campus and meeting with student groups and administrators, always speaking through a translator due to the language barrier.
“I am impressed by how much your students really love the university and how patriotic their behavior is toward the university,” Aleksandr Bryukhanov said. “We can see the emblem of the Dragon practically everywhere. It’s within the community. It’s about students who take pride in their university.”
The support given by the university to incoming students also made an impact on the Russian visitors.
“The administration is doing a great job accommodating these students,” said delegate Yekaterina Sukhareva. “It is trying to make it hospitable and a good place to be at. We all know, 18 years old, 19 years old, they come here, for some of them who came from small communities, from villages, this is a challenge in their life. It is the beginning of adulthood, and the university is doing a great job accommodating them.”
Although many aspects of the community and MSUM impressed the delegates, they also saw room for improvement.
Elena Atitsogbui, the group’s translator, has worked as a translator previously with the Open World Leadership Program. She observed that in the Fargo-Moorhead region there are 30 to 35 private companies that deal with the Russian-speaking world. However, the only Russian language program in the tri-college system phased out a few years ago.
“Your government, the United States government, has declared a list of critical languages, and Russian is among them,” Atitsogbui said. “This language is needed, not only for the sake of knowing a foreign language, but for developing and establishing more professional relationships with Russian-speaking countries. Wouldn’t it be good for students in the tri-college to have a Russian language opportunity?”
In comparison to some universities in her home country, delegate Irina Ulyanova noted that MSUM’s campus and classrooms are extremely well equipped.
“We know that good facilities and all the devices — the projectors, great classrooms, libraries — are all important for the university to provide a good education,” Ulyanova said.
“I did not study in the best university in my city, but the teachers were outstanding. Great teachers have made a difference in my education. Your faculty is very well prepared to be wise, tolerant, sharing ideas, not just teaching and trying to force someone to learn things by heart, but trying to encourage people to learn because they want to learn. Trying to challenge some ideas and to bring their own life experiences into learning.”
BY KAITLYN TESKE