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Last modified: Monday, October 5, 2009

IU-Russian partnership focuses on environmental studies, language

Oct. 5, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University students will learn about global environmental issues and develop their Russian language skills and IU faculty members will find opportunities for research collaboration with Russian scientists and scholars under a new, federally funded project.

Chernishenko photo

Photo by Aaron Bernstein

Olena Chernishenko

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The project, a partnership with Russia's Tyumen State University and Tyumen State Agricultural Academy, is funded by a three-year, $400,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE).

It is coordinated by IU's School of Public and Environmental Affairs and Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures. Principal investigators are IU Bloomington faculty members Vicky Meretsky, an associate professor in SPEA, and Olena Chernishenko, a lecturer in Slavic Languages and Literatures.

"This is a globally relevant project that has received substantial national recognition through FIPSE," said Patrick O'Meara, IU vice president for international affairs. "It is very much in line with the international perspective that Indiana University is fostering. I find it particularly exciting that the grant brings together different units of the university -- from SPEA to the Russian and East European Institute to the Slavic department -- and that it provides bilateral opportunities for teaching and research."

The grant will enable IU to develop new distance-education courses, encourage the study of Russian language, provide new study abroad and internship opportunities for students, and establish long-term relationships with institutions of higher education in Tyumen, a city of 600,000 in western Siberia.

Vicky Meretsky

Vicky Meretsky

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The ultimate goal is for faculty and students from both countries to gain a deeper knowledge and fuller appreciation of Russian and U.S. environmental problems, an example of a global issue deeply rooted in political, cultural, economic, sociological and even linguistic contexts.

"It's an opportunity to do serious science," Meretsky said. "Increasingly, the scientific community is a global community. It makes sense for Indiana University to prepare our students to work in this way."

The IU grant application had the highest score of 24 applications for funding from the FIPSE U.S.-Russia program. Projects were also funded at George Washington University and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Features of the Indiana University project include:

  • A new four-week summer course, Global Environmental Problems and Solutions. Meretsky will teach the course, in collaboration with TSU and TSAA faculty, using distance-learning technology that allows students to participate from IU Bloomington, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and the two institutions in Tyumen.
  • A two-week field experience in western Siberia for IU students, including trips to natural areas, industrial sites and environmental remediation areas, along with cultural experiences. The grant will fund travel and expenses for 10 IU students each summer. Russian students and faculty members will make similar trips to Indiana, hosted by IU.
  • Compact, intensive courses in Russian language for beginning and advanced students, with a focus on environmental science terminology and language functionality for use in research institutions, field stations and university departments. The courses will be taught at IU Bloomington with distance-learning technology to include IUPUI students.
  • A new 22-credit academic certificate in international environmental science offered to IU students through SPEA.
  • Opportunities for IU environmental scientists to travel to Russia, establish research projects in the Tyumen region, and initiate collaborations with TSU and TSAA faculty members.
  • Funding for IU students to travel to the Tyumen region for summer internships and field research experiences.
  • Creation of an online Russian-English-Russian dictionary of terms commonly used in environmental science and environmental policy.

The project will also include the development and sharing of innovative techniques for teaching Russian through "intelligent computer-assisted language learning," or ICALL. The Slavic department and computational linguistics faculty at IU are the only U.S. research team producing ICALL tools for the Russian language.

The new IU courses will be offered in the summer of 2010, 2011 and 2012. Some aspects of the project, including ICALL research and development, student internships and faculty collaboration, are expected to continue beyond the three-year duration of the grant.

The School of Public and Environmental Affairs and the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures also collaborate on a global health policy project that includes research and teaching, student field experiences, and Russian language instruction using distance learning to link students at IU Bloomington and IUPUI. That project, for which Chernishenko is principal investigator, is a partnership with Southern Federal University at Rostov-on-Don, Russia.

Indiana University has a long history of offering instruction in Russian language and culture through the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures and the Russian and East European Institute, which was established in 1958 and is one of 16 federally funded Title VI resource centers at IU. About 150 students at IU Bloomington are enrolled in Russian courses this semester.