Hello from the Danube! As I write this, I am on a small ship on the Danube somewhere between Belgrade and Budapest. I’ve been serving as a Faculty Lecturer on a two-week UVA alumni trip from Bucharest to Vienna. It’s been a wonderful experience connecting with UVA alumni and visiting historic sites in the Balkans and Southeastern Europe. As the fall foliage floats by, I have a chance to reflect on the very exciting year we had in the Slavic Department in 2015-2016. While David Herman, our regular Chair, was on leave (thankfully he has returned to the position), I oversaw our department’s many activities. One major endeavor was a rigorous review of the Department conducted by three professors from other universities (Princeton; Wisconsin; and University of California, Berkeley). I am pleased to report that the committee concluded that we are running a productive and vital program. In their words, “The UVA Slavic Department boasts an excellent and devoted faculty who bring out the best in their students”; “The quality of Slavic instruction that graduate students receive at the University of Virginia is second to none”; and students “expressed strong satisfaction with the quality of teaching and advising, and with the level of faculty engagement.”
I am also happy to report that our graduate students have been receiving recognition for their preparedness and dedication to their craft. Jill Martiniuk, who received her doctorate in 2015 and who worked for the Slavic Department as an instructor this year, has just accepted a two-year position as a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Houston beginning in the fall of 2016. Several of our graduate students won significant awards in 2015-2016. Michael Marsh-Soloway received the All-University Graduate Teaching Award in Arts and Humanities from the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs and then went on to receive his Ph.D. degree in August. Abby Hohn received a grant from the American Councils for International Education to study in St. Petersburg, Russia in 2016. Tierre Sanford received a Critical Language Scholarship (from the U.S. State Department) to study advanced Russian in Russia in 2016. Sarah McEleney won a Praxis Program award from the Scholars’ Lab at the University of Virginia Library to participate in the Praxis Program in 2016-2017.
The undergraduate programs of the Slavic Department also flourished this year. Seventeen of our students graduated with a major in Russian Language and Literature and/or Russian and East European Studies. Four of our majors were elected to Phi Beta Kappa (Rebecca Kientz, Benjamin Moody, Adam Sykes, and Anne Weidhaas). Kay Khozbayar and Adam Sykes won Critical Language Scholarship for study in Russia during the 2016 summer. Sykes also won a Harrison Undergraduate Research Award. Two third-year students won Project GO (Global Officer) Scholarships to further their study of Russian.
And our faculty continues to be distinguished for their achievements in research and teaching. Julian Connolly was awarded the Richard Stites Senior Scholar Award by the Southern Conference on Slavic Studies at their annual meeting in March 2016.
Dariusz Tolczyk received an award from the National Program for the Advancement of the Humanities from the Republic of Poland Ministry of Science and Higher Education for his book Gulag w ozcac Zachodu [The Gulag Under Western Eyes]. Katia Dianina received several awards and grants from the University of Virginia: a Mead Re-Occurring Dream grant to take 10 students to see a production of Chekhov’s play The Seagull in Richmond; a 2016 Summer Stipend to support her research on her new book project on the restoration of Russia’s art treasures dispersed in the Soviet era; a research grant for the Center for Global Inquiry and Innovation for the same book project; and a grant from the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies to match the CGII grant just listed.
On a sadder note, Lilia Travisano retired from the Department, and we will sorely miss her incredible devotion to our students and our programs. In the coming year, we will be conducting a search for a full-time replacement to teach several levels of Russian and train our Graduate Teaching Assistants.
We are now past the mid-point of the fall semester, and we are looking forward to other rewarding events and activities. We welcome you to stop by our offices on the second floor of New Cabell Hall and see for yourselves all that is going on.
With warm wishes,