Russian Program Alumni

Graduates from UAA's Russian Program go on to do great things.  Here's what some of them have to say about their experiences after graduation:

Martin Glaves, Russian major (May 2009), has been accepted to medical school at Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences.

Cameron Cartland, BA in Russian and International Studies, 2008

Summer 2009: Internship with the World Wildlife Fund.  The office Cameron is working for focuses on fisheries and sustainability in the Russian Far East.

I graduated from UAA in May of 2008 with a BA in Russian and International Studies. After graduating in May, I spent eight weeks in St. Petersburg, Russia on a study abroad program through an organization called American Councils for International Education. While in St. Pete, I lived with a host family and took classes at Russian State Pedagogical University. The program was a business language program, so my classes were focused on business communication. As well as taking classes, I had an internship at the Institute of Cultural Programs, an office affiliated with the mayor’s office of St. Petersburg that is responsible for marketing St. Petersburg culture.

My Russian degree from UAA prepared me well for both the internship and my time in Russia.  Anyone interested in Russian language and culture should consider becoming a Russian major. Russian speakers are in high demand right now in the United States. Learning Russian will not only open up opportunities for interesting careers after college, but also allow you to experience a new culture and way of life.

Jean Kollantai, BA in Russian, 2008

Fall 2009: Taking classes to apply to the Masters in Social Work

I graduated from UAA in December, 2008, with a BA in Russian.  My Russian studies began in high school and college in the 1960’s, and studying Russian at UAA was a wonderful opportunity to push ahead and finally achieve the major that I wished I had stayed with the first time around.  (The Cold War made it very impractical, and I graduated instead in social services.)  I also took most of UAA’s Russian history and culture courses, and all of the topical courses taught in Russian, as well as participating in many and varied Russian-related events at UAA and in the community over the years.  It was all worth it when my husband and I visited Russia for 5 weeks this winter, including a train trip to the Urals, and I was able to connect to the history, culture and people that we encountered, not to mention being able to more or less survive and thrive in a mostly all Russian-speaking environment on a daily level.  Since then, I’ve made some presentations to people and groups in the community. 

The Service Learning project that Prof. Kalina encouraged me to get involved with in 2006 was in the Shared Beringian Heritage Program of the National Park Service (see the Achievements section) (and see   My involvement also included being the student Service Learning coordinator in Spring, 2007; making a presentation about Beringia at the annual statewide Olympiada of the Russian Language for high school students; and attending and volunteering at the 2006 Beringia Days International Conference in Anchorage.    In 2007, 2008 and now again in 2009 I am employed in the summers by the SBHP as a conference assistant for Beringia Days, which involves bringing together several hundred people from both sides of the Bering Strait and beyond in Anchorage, Fairbanks, or Anadyr, Chukotka.  I am fortunate to be able to utilize and learn more Russian in the course of this project, and to meet so many interesting people from the Russian Far East, my long-time special interest along with the indigenous peoples there.   In 2007 this work led to my very first visit to Russia when the conference was held in Anadyr, and the opportunity to stay with a host family.

I would like to add that both my sons began studying Russian in Alaska when they were ages 6 and 8.  Both took Russian at UAA while still in high school, and both have gone on to many interesting opportunities. 

Rachel Spencer, BA in Russian, 2006

Since graduating in 2006, I have continued to work as an editor/proofreader/transcriptionist for Spheris, which is what I did while earning my degree.  While that might seem to have no connection to Russian, medicine is a language all its own, and being able to learn Russian made learning the language of medicine much less daunting when I became a transcriptionist. However, later this year I will begin an entry-level master's program in nursing through a local university in Las Vegas, Nevada.

I have found that a degree in Russian is more than just a conversation starter.  No matter what you decide to do in the future, your application will stand out, whether it is for a job or for further education.  Not only that, recently during my admissions interview, this comment was made by one of the professors on the panel, "Well, if you can learn Russian, you can certainly handle this."  So, I would encourage anyone considering a degree in Russian to pursue it!!!  You will not only learn a language that is intellectually fulfilling and a culture that is rewarding, but you will also set yourself up for countless opportunities in the future, whatever career direction you choose to pursue.  And, wherever you live, you will have the opportunity to meet Russians and interact with Russians, which has been the most rewarding part for me!

Rebekah Smith, BA in Russian, 2005
I combined my BA in Russian with a BA in Journalism and Public Communications, followed eventually by a Master's in Public Administration. This combination may sound odd, but it's led me to many interesting places!
While studying Russian, I had the opportunity to spend a semester abroad at the Far Eastern State Transport University (FESTU) in Khabarovsk. I happened to graduate exactly at the time the position of International Programs Coordinator at UAA's American Russian Center (now incorporated in UAA International Affairs) had newly opened. The degree in Russian and my study abroad experience were important factors. I was accepted and began working with many fascinating international exchange programs, including the one I had participated in myself. It was great to have a chance to return to FESTU to visit, now as a coordinator. While the great majority of the programs I worked with were with Russian students and professionals, I also had the opportunity to work with students from Western Europe and Asia.
My experience at the American Russian Center helped me, three years later, to get a good position with the State of Alaska, working with education programs. But I missed the Russia connection. Now, I've re-established it completely! With my Russian language skills and Journalism degree, an opportunity arose for me to become a technical writer for English-language online help at the Moscow office of a medium-sized IT firm. 
I'm now living in Moscow, working full-time and establishing a life here. Moscow has its challenges, but knowing Russian and being familiar with the culture makes it much easier and truly rewarding to live and work in this amazing country.

Tara Janik, BA in Russian, 2004

I have studied Russian for ten years. I studied it at UAA for five years, and then I went to Khabarovsk for a semester. I love the Russian language. It's beautiful and complex, but with very straight-forward grammar. It's very reassuring, after the chaotic English I grew up speaking. I also love to read, which is why I started studying languages in the first place. I couldn't stand the idea of there being anything that I couldn't read, so I started learning languages. Little did I know that my "hobby" would follow me wherever I went.

I've used my Russian skills often, in every job I've ever had. I worked at the UAA library, where my language skills (mostly Russian) made me the designated language go-to girl. My bosses would have me sort and input all the foreign books, even those in languages I don't read. I sorted all the foreign newspapers and periodicals, as well. Any store I worked in, such as Fred Meyer, I was an emergency interpreter. I once even caught a pair of thieves at Fred Meyer in Soldotna because they were discussing their crime in Russian, not knowing that I understood them. Outside of work my shaky speaking skills have come in handy, too. On a plane en-route to vacation I helped the Russian-speaking passenger next to me order lunch, since he was allergic to shellfish and the stewardess kept trying to give him the crab salad. I've given directions to Russian tourists in Seattle and helped a Russian Old Believer boy find his Mom at Safeway. I used my skills to improve my filing and research skills during my FBI Honors Internship and I've tutored High School students.

Everything I do is affected and enhanced by my knowledge of Russian. The way I learn, the people I talk to, the materials I read and even the jobs I get are all affected by my language skills. Right now I'm applying to attend graduate school to study Russian, specifically translation and Church Slavonic. I can't seem to get enough and I love the idea of spending more time activelyusing the language again. I believe that everyone should study a foreign language and I especially recommend Russian. After all, if you can learn Russian, you can learn anything! I am also a firm convert to the fact that if you really want to know a language you need to live there for a while. Study, learn, and have fun!

Lesley Packel, BA, Russian, May 2001

After taking time off from studies, including a year working as a Russian linguist for a government contractor, Lesley is considering graduate school. In summer 2009, Lesley took Political Russian at Johns Hopkins Summer Language Institute.  The Voice of America interviewed Lesley and the other students, now posted on YouTube: