In late September 2016, Joss Meakins (MARS-REERS ’17), a University Consortium (UC) Fellow, traveled to Moscow’s Higher School of Economics for UC’s annual two-day conference about Euro-Atlantic relations in the post-Cold-War era and beyond. The UC, which launched last year thanks to a generous grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, is a partnership between six leading institutions in North America, Europe, and Russia, that promotes training, research, engagement and policy outreach on Euro-Atlantic issues critical to addressing the crisis in Russia-West relations. Read more.
In January 2014, Diego Benning Wang (MARS-REERS, ’16), then an undergraduate student at New York University (NYU), traveled on a tourist visa to the North Caucasus, a politically unstable mountainous region in the southwestern corner of the Russian Federation. He was returning to the area for the second time in six months in hopes of gaining a deeper understanding of the land and its cultures in the wake of the April 2013 Boston Marathon bombing—the attack was executed by ethnically Chechen émigrés with ties to Dagestan. Read more.
Abby Downing-Beaver (MARS-REERS ’16) has always been fascinated with languages and the cultural nuances they convey. Growing up in Missouri City, Texas, she tried to learn as many as possible. Unfortunately, her high school offered only French and Spanish, both of which she was already studying. Then her mother, a journalist, discovered a newspaper listing for a Russian language class at the Russian Cultural Center in downtown Houston. Read more.
Andrew Dolinar (GSAS, HR ‘16) was a sophomore studying sociology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, when he received a Critical Language Scholarship from the U.S. Department of State to study Russian in Kazan. It was summer 2012, and Russia’s second largest and most cosmopolitan city, St. Petersburg, had recently passed a law banning the “propaganda” of LGBT relations to minors. “Being a queer American in Russia while all this was happening was fascinating,” says Dolinar. While in Kazan, he made an effort to meet people in the queer community. Read more.
On February 22, 2014, Joseph Maberry (SIPA, MIA ‘16), a Peace Corps volunteer, sat in his apartment in Staryi Krym, a small historic town in Crimea, watching a livestream of the protests taking place on Maidan in the wake of the “Heavenly Hundred” massacre. Suddenly he received an email informing him that his Peace Corps service, which was supposed to last another month, would end that day. Read more.
When Anastasia Tkach (MARS-REERS ’16) first arrived in Ukraine in July 2015, she intended to research apathy and disillusionment in the wake of Euromaidan. But while interviewing members of various activist organizations in Kyiv, she realized that few were either apathetic or disillusioned. “Activism was still happening,” says Tkach. “There were demonstrations on the streets and a lot of reforms passing.” Read more.
Andrew Lohsen (SIPA ’15) became interested in corruption while living in St. Petersburg on a Flagship Language Fellowship (2007-8), where he frequently encountered low-level officials seeking bribes. While working on security and nuclear nonproliferation issues at the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism (2010-13), he became convinced that systemic corruption was a critical problem for Eurasian states. The desire to take more direct action against corruption prompted him to enroll in Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) in 2013. Read more.
Angela Wheeler (GSAPP ’16) grew up in Berlin, Massachusetts. It was “a little farm town with a defunct downtown,” she recalls. But when she was about to graduate high school, Berlin received a Main Street Grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the city restored some of the dilapidated, vacant buildings. Read more.