RACU Searches for a New VPAA. Dr. Larry Ort, RACU’s Vice President for Academic Affairs, has decided to return to the States following the completion of his third year as the university’s COO (Chief Operating Officer) in Moscow. “Dr. Ort has given RACU excellent leadership for the past three years,” President John Bernbaum noted, “and has built a strengthened staff and faculty team. His leadership will be missed.” Please help us find a new campus leader for our Moscow program. For information concerning this opening, see http://www.racu.org/faculty/vpaa.html
Fall Trustees’ Meeting. On Thursday and Friday, October 31 – November 1, the Board of Trustees of the Russian-American Christian University held its Fall meeting on the campus in Moscow. For many of the American members of the Trustees’ Board, it was their first opportunity to see the newly leased facilities at 12 Bolshoi Savvinsky Pereulok, Building #18. Trustees took a tour of the campus facilities and enjoyed opportunities to meet with RACU staff and students. The meeting opened on Thursday afternoon with a report on the university’s academic programs by Dr. Larry Ort, RACU’s Provost. Dr. Ort invited the Department Chairs and their Deputy Chairs to meet the Board and to join in a brief question-and-answer session.
On Thursday evening, the Board of Trustees had dinner with RACU staff and faculty members in the Rector’s Dining Hall at Russian Peoples’ Friendship University. This provided an opportunity for the Board to become better acquainted with the staff and faculty and for the staff and faculty to learn more about the Russian and American members of the Trustee Board, RACU’s governing body.
Friday’s meetings focused on RACU’s financial status, the accreditation and licensing process, the capital campaign, and the results of the independent audit conducted during the month of October, at the request of the Board, by two outside consultants. The Board was pleased with the final report submitted by the consultants and approved the administration’s plan of appointing an internal committee to assess the recommendations contained in the Final Report and to implement changes to improve internal communication at the university. The Board was united in their enthusiasm about the start of RACU’s seventh year, and, although there are financial challenges ahead, the meeting concluded on a positive note.
Capital Campaign Update. In Spring 2002, the Board decided to scale back the plans for the new campus facility. During the summer months, the architect and construction specialists worked on developing revised plans that involved reducing the building from five floors to three or four floors and removing the basement and underground parking. The redesign was recently agreed upon and the new floor plans submitted to the Board at its Fall meeting.
The revised plans are for a building with little change in its exterior appearance, but without a below-ground floor, and with three floors on the south wing and four floors on the north wing. The total floor space was reduced from 5,600 square meters (56,000 square feet) to 4690 square meters (46,900 square feet). The new design results in only a minimal loss of academic space; the primary change was the elimination of the guest rooms for visiting faculty and staff.
The revised building plans have been approved by the Moscow city government and only one remaining approval is needed, by the local governing authorities in the Babushkinskaya region, before construction can begin. We expect to have this approval in hand by the end of November. The Board of Trustees was enthusiastic about the redesigned building plans and encouraged to staff to resume its efforts to raise the funds needed to complete the capital campaign for the new building.
The Beginning of RACU’s Seventh Year. The new school year got off to a good start with an incoming freshman class of 33 students. Of these newcomers, 14 passed the English threshold examination and will be admitted into first year courses; they will be joined by 19 students who were accepted from last year and who have now passed the English exam. This incoming freshman class brings RACU’s current student body to 142.
RACU’s student body continues to be evenly divided between students from the Moscow region (51%) and those from other parts of the Russian Federation (41%) or neighboring countries that were formerly a part of the USSR (8%). Although most of the students come from Protestant churches, 9% of the students are Orthodox believers.
RACU Faculty Retreat. From August 21-23, RACU’s academic and administrative team headed off for the annual faculty and staff retreat. The goals of the retreat included team-building activities, opportunities for fellowship and sharing, problem-solving related to both academic and administrative issues, and time to simply have fun together. The faculty retreat has historically played a major role in building a community of Christian scholars and staff at RACU, and this year was no exception.
Two new staff members, Nonna Khaustova and Dmitri Motrenko, led devotionals, Provost Larry Ort held a workshop on constructive feedback and anchored an in-depth discussion of Christian liberal arts education, and President John Bernbaum shared the story of RACU’s origins. The principal themes of this year’s retreat were “intrinsic and instrumental values,” “critical commitment.” and “integration” – phrases that describe critical aspects of liberal arts education. Trying to work out the meaning of these concepts in the Russian context is the challenge that our faculty now face.
According to President John Bernbaum, “our faculty has never been as strong as it is now and, with the new Department Chairs and Deputy Chairs, we have impressive Academic Affairs Council giving the university the direction it needs as it matures as an institution.”
Second Graduating Class Celebrates!On Saturday, May 18, 2002, 25 RACU students received Bachelor’s degrees celebrating the successful completion of their graduation requirements. Two received Summa Cum Laude honors, having achieved a cumulative grade point average of 4.88 or higher: Nadezhda Merkusheva, B.A. Business and Economics, and Konstantin Petrenko, B.A. Social Work. Nadya and Kostya thrilled the international audience with their challenging and touching graduate speeches, presented in both Russian and English. Three students graduated Magna Cum Laude, including Anna Elistratova, who met all the requirements for the B.A. in both Social Work and Business and Economics. Six students received Cum Laude honors.
The graduates represent a broad geographical spectrum: 10 are from Moscow; 4 are from communities outside of Moscow but considered the “Moscow region;” 5 are from the city of Kirovo-Chepetsk, 12 hours by train to the northwest of Moscow; and the remaining 6 graduates represent the cities of Stavropol(Southern Russia, between the Caspian and Black Seas), Zelenogorsk(North of St. Petersburg toward the Finnish border), Kogalym(Tumen Region in Central Russia), Ust-Nera, Yakutiya(Eastern Siberia), and the neighboring republics of Dagestanand Belorussia.
The University’s newest graduates join the first 19 already in the Russian marketplace, for a total “RACU alumni” organization of 44.
Social Work alumni in leadership roles: In January of 2002, the Russian government issued a law requiring the establishment of Child/Family Service Departments at all social service centers in Moscow. The order follows President Putin’s efforts to draw attention and respectability to the poorly-developed but essential field of social work, the services of which are so desperately needed in Russia today. Through this initiative, the Moscow city government gave two RACU graduates – 2001 alumnus Mrs. Nadya Grubaya, Director of RACU’s Social Work Internship program, and 2002 graduate Mrs. Tanya Lobacheva – the authority to design such a new department in the influential Gargarin region of the City. The facility serves people with disabilities, retirees, war veterans, orphans, the disadvantaged and the poor. As Chief Administrator, Mrs. Lobacheva developed a comprehensive plan for the new department. Services are delivered by several RACU graduates and RACU student interns, recruited and hired by Mrs. Lobacheva. The program may serve as a model for others if successful.
Preparations for 7th Freshman Class: The first of two entrance examination and interview sessions for new applicants for the 2002-2003 academic year were held on July 9-12. Of the 39 who attended this first session, 17 have been accepted for admission. Written examinations are similar to those taken at all Russian educational institutions, and include general knowledge and Russian language and literature components, plus the addition of a personal faith essay. Those who successfully pass the written examinations are invited to a personal interview before the entrance committee, comprising faculty and administrative staff. The final examination session for new applicants for the coming academic year will be held August 15-16. The Fall semester begins on September 2.
Drama Premier: The RACU English Theater premiered in April with a lively performance of William Shakespeare’s comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. English faculty Nadya Zheltukhina (new to RACU this year) and Cathy Thornberg (6-year RACU veteran) directed the play. Students were in charge of the entire production, designing sets and costumes and performing their roles in beautiful Shakespearian English with a Russian accent! The hard work, careful planning, memorization, rehearsals and anticipation culminated in a great drama experience for all. We anticipate that this is just the first of many such wonderful events!
Academic Teamwork: During the Spring semester and the Spring “intensive” modules, a total of 43 different faculty—26 Russians and 17 Westerners—taught 61 different English, General Education, Social Work, Business and Economics, and Linguistics courses.
Since many of RACU’s Western faculty come from partner institutions where they hold permanent staff positions, many guest faculty teach during the May/June intensive modules, where course material is covered in a period of three weeks. Among this year’s first module guests was Dr. Beryl Hugen, who co-taught “History of Social Work in Russia and the United States” with Mrs. Nadya Grubaya, a 2001 RACU graduate and the Director of RACU’s Social Work internship program. A group of 9 students from Calvin College (MI), Dr. Hugen’s home campus, were also enrolled in the course, studying together with their Russian peers.
Dr. Pamela Indahl, a six-year RACU veteran, returned to teach two courses in May and June, “Counseling and Mediation in Social Work,” and “The History of Social Work in the United States.” Having founded the Social Work Department and teaching it every year since, Dr. Indahl has had significant input into the professional and personal development of all of the University’s 17 Social Work graduates to date.
“Social Work Values and Ethics” was taught by Dr. Majel Braden, Visiting Professor from NOVA University (FL), now working in university education in Germany. RACU Social Work Chairman Donoso Escobar and RACU faculty member Dr. Olga Balayeva completed the Social Work module offerings, with “Introduction to Social Work” and “History of Social Work in Russia,” respectively.
Dr. Robert Cubillos, Vice President of Rolling Hills Covenant Church, Rolling Hills Estates (CA), visited RACU for the first time, teaching “Christian Apologetics.”
Business and Economics intensive course offerings included “Financial Accounting” and “Managerial Accounting,” by RACU Professor of Business Eric Van Genderen. Four “repeat” guest faculty completed the Spring Business offerings: Dr. Jonathan Warner of Dordt College (IA), “Gobal Economy II/World Poverty;” Dr. Tim Kowalik of Northwestern College (MN), “Public Speaking for Business;” Dr. Tat Fong of Geneva College (PA), “Money and Banking;” and Mr. Peter Wozniuk (Des Moines, IA), “Introduction to Business and Economics.”
Calvin College (MI) Gift Brings On-Line Journal Resources to RACU: Thanks to the generosity of Calvin College (USA), RACU’s library has been gifted with connectivity to a unique, full-text, on-line database of 242 of the most important journals in the Arts and Sciences. JSTOR, a digital scholarly journal archive, was designed specifically to address cost, storage, preservation and distribution issues inherent in hard-copy libraries. JSTOR was formed as a non-profit organization in 1995, after a highly successful pilot project initiated by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Russian-American Christian University is one of 20 Russian educational institutions, and one of 1,372 institutions world-wide, that are utilizing JSTOR services. RACU students, faculty and administrators are most grateful for the partnership of Calvin College in supporting the development of RACU’s library – and through it, the development of Christian leaders for Russia – with this wonderful gift.
Five students were invited to enroll in RACU’s first Honors Course: History of Opera, taught by RACU Professor of Fine Arts, Oleg Chernyshov. Students were enthusiastic about what they learned, and considered the course to have broadened their horizons and enriched their lives.
The RACU Family Mourns Death of Freshman: In March, the campus learned of the sudden death of a first year student, Oleg Sakhautdinov, a Business/Economics student from Kaliningrad. His death was attributed by hospital officials to influenza and pneumonia. A special chapel was held to honor Oleg and to comfort his fellow classmates and teachers. Oleg was remembered by students, faculty and staff as a gentle and polite young man, whose dream it had been to receive a Christian education.
In addition to visits to many of the traditional historical sites in the cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg and cities and villages along the 1,400-kilometer river route, guests participated in RACU’s Second Graduation Celebrationheld at Russian People’s Friendship University. Other highlights included a visit to a Christian ministry serving street children in St. Petersburg, a time of worship with Russian believers, and lectures on today’s Russia by Russian sociologist and Consultant for the State Duma, Professor Vsevolod Marinov.RACU President and Mrs. Bernbaum hosted a 12-day trip for RACU Supporters and Friends on the Volga River from May 15-28, 2002. The German-made ship, the m.s. Litvinov, served as the traveling home for the 50 guests, who were treated to authentic Russian hospitality by the dedicated Russian crew throughout the tour.
RACU’s Volga tour coincided with President and Mrs. Bush’s visit to St. Petersburg. Following the meetings between the American and Russian presidents, the US Consul General in St. Petersburg, Morris N. Hughes, and his wife Betty, hosts for the Presidents’ visit to their city, came aboard the m.s. Litvinov to share their impressions of the meeting between the two world leaders with the RACU travelers.
2001-2002 Conferences: This year, RACU joined with other Russian universities to present and/or participate in several educational conferences or symposia for the Russian academic community. Dr. Larry Ort, Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Dr. Alexander Zaichenko, one of RACU’s founders and a professor in the Business Department, have twice been invited to make presentations at the Russian Academy of Science, and both scholars have been invited to make presentations during the upcoming 2002-2003 academic year.
In January of 2002, a conference on The Russian Idea was cosponsored by the Russian-American Christian University and Russian People’s Friendship University (RPFU). Dr. Larry Ort and Dr. Pyotr Grechko, Professor and Chairperson of the Department of Social Philosophy at RPFU served as co-conveners and co-chairs. Dr. Ort’s review of the related research and writing of Dr. Wendy Helleman, a scholar then teaching at Moscow State University (MGU)under the auspices of the International Institute for Christian Studies, served as the stimulus for the conference addressing one of Russia’s central themes. Additional presenters and participants included Russian scholars of philosophy, literature and Russian studies from MGU and RPFU, in addition to the RACU faculty. A more expansive conference is planned for Fall 2002.
A conference entitled “Russia and Globalization” was co-hosted by RACU and the Christian Business Clubs of Moscow in Fall 2001. Both faculty and students had the opportunity to make formal presentations and to participate in the workshops along with the 100 conference guests.