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CREECA Summer Programs Promote Cultural Exchange
This summer, the center held its annual intensive language-learning program, the Central Eurasian Studies Summer Institute (CESSI), where students took courses in Kazakh and Uzbek. In addition, CREECA, along with various university partners and the Visiting International Student Program (VISP) organized an 8-week summer session for 60 students from Nazarbayev University in Kazakhstan.
(Photo: CREECA outreach coordinator, Nancy Heingartner with her bowling team; students from Nazarbayev University. Credits: Jennifer Tishler/CREECA).
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When Raushan Myrzabekova arrived in Madison this summer, it was her first time in the United States. It was also her first time teaching in the country. Myrzabekova, instructor in Kazakh language, literature, and culture from Nazarbayev University (NU) in Kazakhstan, came to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to teach Kazakh to students in CREECA’s intensive summer language program, the Central Eurasian Studies Summer Institute (CESSI).
The NU students lived on campus and took courses during the 8-week summer session, as well as one of two courses specifically designed for them. CREECA along with various university partners such as the Division of Continuing Studies (DCS), the Writing Center, University Housing, and the Libraries arranged for the students to come to campus under the DCS Visiting International Student Program (VISP).
“In setting up study abroad programs with UW-Madison and other partners, Nazarbayev University would like to give their students an opportunity to become global citizens,” said Jennifer Tishler, associate director of CREECA. “In addition, they want to provide their students with significant opportunities for research, and instruction in research methods.”
The students were enthusiastic in their evaluations of their time on campus. Tishler said the students greatly enjoyed their courses and also enjoyed exploring life in Madison. Several of the students bought bicycles through Craigslist within days of arriving in the city and they experienced Madison’s long-standing July Fourth tradition, the Rhythm and Booms fireworks display.
Through the course of the summer, students participating in CESSI and the NU students came together on various occasions -- a joint welcome reception, an afternoon of bowling, and a day trip to Chicago. These meetings further encouraged an exchange of cultures. Students from CESSI studying the Kazakh language had to the opportunity to converse with native speakers, while NU students had the opportunity to spend time with CESSI students from various parts of the United States.
“The (CESSI) program was enhanced by the presence of the students from Nazarbayev University,” said Nancy Heingartner, program coordinator for CESSI. “And for the NU students, it was great to see their language being studied in the U.S. It was exciting for everybody,” Heingartner added.
CESSI is now in its fourth year. The program offers intensive study of Central Eurasian languages such as Kazakh, Uyghur, Uzbek and Tajik based on student demand. This year, students studied elementary Uzbek, and elementary to advanced levels of Kazakh. In addition, the program seeks to infuse a level of cultural depth into the instruction.
“It’s not enough just to teach a language and its grammar and vocabulary. There’s a whole world of culture behind each of these languages,” said Uli Schamiloglu, faculty director for CESSI.
Language lessons are enhanced by cultural components like international films, and lectures by a diverse set of guest speakers, including a panel discussion led by students from Nazarbayev University on the importance of a liberal arts education. These events and regular lunch meetings allow students studying different languages to interact with each other, a rarity in academic settings. But, Schamiloglu said, it is reflective of authentic situations in cities like Moscow where there are speakers of many central Asian languages.
“It makes me proud of the University of Wisconsin-Madison that we are able to offer these languages that are ancient, rich, and fascinating,” said Heingartner. “They need to be studied and are not commonly studied. We are helping to create the next generation of central Eurasian scholars,” she added.
But the exchange of cultural perspectives this summer was not limited to the students of NU and CESSI. Their teacher Raushan Myrzabekova felt the same the same way.
“It was a great opportunity to learn more about the United States and its culture,” she said.
You can watch a video of NU student Aigerim sharing her summer term experiences here.
Life, Learning, and Pushkin
Now in its third year, the Pushkin Summer Institute hosted its largest group of students yet. The growing program works with rising high school seniors who are first-generation college-bound students to strengthen their Russian languages skills, give them a sense of college life, and instill an appreciation for Russia’s national poet, Pushkin. (Photo: Prof. David Bethea with students from the 2013 Pushkin Summer Institute. Courtesy, Pushkin Summer Institute).
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For six weeks during the summer, high schools students between their junior and senior years come to the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus to participate in the Pushkin Summer Institute. They live in campus dormitories, immerse themselves in the Russian language, and experience life on campus and in the city.
This year, 23 students from schools in Chicago and Anchorage -- Pritzker College Prep, Noble Street College Prep and Anchorage West High School --participated in the program.
The schools have Russian-language programs and the students come in with an elementary knowledge of the language. According to on-site director Benjamin Jens, the primary goals of the program are to improve Russian language skills -- speaking as well as writing -- improve critical thinking, and prepare the students for the demands of college life. What makes the program unique, is that the students are mainly from underrepresented communities; from low-income or minority backgrounds.
“The schools we work with are ‘majority-minority’,” Jens said.
He adds that the diversity amongst the student body allows for a richer comparison between cultures within the program; students can make connections with their own heritage and explore beyond just Russian and American cultures.
A typical day for the students consists of five hours of intensive Russian-language study taught by current graduate students or alumni. And, once a week, David Bethea, professor of Slavic Languages and Literature and the Institute’s faculty director, delivers a lecture on Alexander Pushkin, Russia’s national poet.
Pushkin is at the heart of the program. Bethea uses Pushkin’s story of turning adversity into a strong legacy of lasting creative works, to inspire the students to overcome their own challenging circumstances.
The feedback has been positive.
“The students are really excited about Russian culture,” said Jens. “A vast majority of the students have gone on to college and most are taking Russian if it is available. Some students have gone on to study in Russia for brief periods.”
Since it began in 2012, the program has steadily grown. The number of partner schools increased from one to three; class sizes have increased from 12 to 23. In the future Jens says that they hope to continue to add more partner schools and perhaps add a second course for advanced Russian study.
“Prof. Bethea’s vision is working so far. We hope to keep that success up as we go forward,” said Jens.
In 2014 the Pushkin Summer Institute received a grant from STARTALK, a national program that provides critical language education for students K-16. Additional support for the summer program comes from the UW-Madison Office of the Vice Provost and Chief Diversity Officer and a grant for the advancement of area and international studies from the College of Letters and Science, the Division of International Studies, and the International Institute of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with funds originating from a generous Mellon Foundation grant to the College of Letters and Science.
|Year||Volume & Issue|
|Winter 2014||Vol. 19 No. 1|
|Fall 2010||Vol. 18 No. 1|
|Spring/Summer 2010||Vol. 17 No. 3|
|Winter 2010||Vol. 17 No. 2|
|Fall 2009||Vol. 17 No. 1|
|Spring 2009||Vol. 16 No. 3|
|Winter 2009||Vol. 16 No. 2|
|Fall 2008||Vol. 16 No. 1|
|Spring 2008||Vol. 15 No. 3|
|Winter 2008||Vol. 15 No. 2|
|Fall 2007||Vol. 15 No. 1|
|Spring 2007||Vol. 14 No. 2|
|Fall 2006||Vol. 14 No. 1|
|Spring 2006||Vol 13 No. 3|
|Winter 05-06||Vol. 13 No. 2|
|Fall 2005||Vol. 13 No. 1|
|Spring 2005||Vol. 12 No. 3|
|Winter 04-05||Vol. 12 No. 2|
|Fall 2004||Vol. 12 No. 1|
|April 2004||Vol. 11 No. 4|
|February 2004||Vol. 11 No. 3|
|November 2003||Vol. 11 No. 2|
|September 2003||Vol. 11 No. 1|
|April 2002||Vol. 10 No. 4|
|February 2002||Vol. 10 No. 3|
|December 2001||Vol. 10 No. 2|
|October 2001||Vol. 10 No. 1|
|April 2001||Vol. 9 No. 4|
|February 2001||Vol. 9 No. 3|
|November 2000||Vol. 9 No. 2|
|September 2000||Vol. 9 No. 1|