The American Center regularly supports the initiatives of alumni of U.S. Government exchange programs to give back to their communities through skill-building workshops. Contact us if you would like to learn more about how to partner with us to conduct your event.
See below for a summary of our projects in 2016!
Russian-American Friendship Conference
Ilya Kursenko, FLEX alumnus and founder of the Russian-American Friendship Organization, organized a two-day conference covering the importance of Russian-American relations, particularly for and among youth. The first day of the conference launched with an introduction of RAF’s mission and goals as well as group activities and complex trivia project stations headed by RAF representatives as well as UGrad, FLEX and Fulbright alumni, participants were able to gain deeper knowledge about American culture and cuisine.
The second day of the conference split into working groups to discuss areas of Russian-American cooperation in the categories of space, business, culture and science/ technology. Participants collectively created projects to engage Russian and American youth in resolving challenges in these specific categories: creating joint recycling programs in U.S. and Russian schools; educational websites by NASA and Russian counterparts to provide more information on space programs; a youth cross-cultural club to provide space and information on people of all ages and backgrounds; and the creation of Russian-American Business Club to educate youth about business in the U.S. and Russia and create business incubators. Participants also met and spoke with several U.S. Embassy officials: Mark Wentworth (Minister-Counselor for Public Affairs), James Land (Cultural Affairs Attache), Justin Tillman (Head of NASA Office), Peter Burba (Environmental Officer), Andrew Krause (Economics Officer) and an intern from the Political Office.
Total participants: 120
Outcomes: A deeper connection and commitment to Russian-American friendship. The Russian-American Youth Business Club was created, which now meets weekly at the American Center, to discuss Russian-American business practices.
Human Rights Discussion Club
July – December 2016
The Human Rights Discussion class project was developed by two IVLP alumni, Andrey Obolensky and Yuri Maximov, who taught 20 sessions to those interested in learning about the structure and mechanisms behind international human rights legislation and organizations. The initial interest in this class was so large (over 50 students came to the first sessions) that the class had to be split into two groups, meeting alternating Saturdays. Class units covered topics such as the UN Commission of Human Rights, Russia’s constitution and representation at the European Council of Human Rights, as well as local NGOs that work in various aspects of human rights. Each unit also covered specific areas: women’s rights, children’s rights, labor rights, disability rights, religious rights and many more. Participants each chose a topic of interest to him/her and made presentations on them.
Class participants consisted of human rights program university students, international students from African nations, lawyers pursuing human rights law and general enthusiasts. 17 people graduated from the class (those who attended 80% of the classes or more), while over 80 participants attended at one time or another.
Total participants: 17 graduates, 85 individual attendees
Outcomes: An in-depth understanding of human rights and current organizations and legislation in place to protect human rights violations. The club extended their original program by offering a series of “Masters” classes in December and January for the general public to discuss human rights-related issues.
Women’s Entrepreneurship Conference
August – September 2016
Open World alumna, Isabella Atlaskirova, had two components to her project: the creation of an online resource for female entrepreneurs and businesswomen (http://businessandwoman.ru) to gain tips and information on better practices; and an on-site seminar for women on how to launch a new business in Russia. Her first seminar covered taxation legislation, registration issues, different types of legal entities in Russia, startup capital, liabilities, assets, as well as maternity leave for women entrepreneurs. After the informational sessions, visitors were treated to a round table consisting of U.S. Embassy Economics Section officers and local successful businesswomen, who all talked about U.S.-Russian collaboration in the field of economics and entrepreneurship and current initiatives promoting this; as well as specific experiences in launching and developing businesses in Russia.
Total participants: 50 (first conference), 35 (second conference)
Outcomes: In addition to the online portal created, this was an outstanding networking opportunity with business professionals, including other alumni (Russian Business Leaders). There was so much interest in this seminar that Izabella agreed to conduct an additional seminar at the end of September, which was along a similar format: informational sessions, support programs and a round table with local business leaders and OPORA representatives. Several workshop participants have led follow-up lectures or workshops at the American Center, promoting women’s business.
Empowering Women through Art Workshop
A day-long event exploring the contributions made by women to the arts. Khatia Apledize, UGrad alumna, presented the history of women in visual arts in particular, then followed with a painting master class for the audience. She used her personal story as inspiration: she had never painted before, was encouraged by a professor two years ago, fell in love with it, devoted time to it and now has had much success in it including opening her own art gallery.
Natalia Kozlova, FLEX alumna and multiple-time winner of international singing competitions, then followed with a master class on singing, including breathing and sound exercises and a singing competition.
Lev Shishov, FLEX alumnus and champion in various breakdancing competitions, conducted the final workshop on breakdancing, discussing its history and the influence of women in this particular dance. He then involved the group in a dance session and to overcome shyness and fears and find one’s inner dancer.
Outcomes: Approx. 50% of the audience were visiting the American Center for the first time and found out about the workshop through the organizers and local art community. Many members made great connections with people they didn’t know before: musicians with other musicians, artists with others. Comments from participants were all resoundingly positive: “I never thought I could paint before, but after trying it here, I want to do it more”; “I feel myself like I can do anything I put my mind to now”; and “This is my first time here, it won’t be my last.”
Business Startup Seminars
September – October 2016
FLEX alumnus, Dmitry Makarov, held a three-part workshop on the introductory steps to starting a small business in Russia. His main goal was to raise awareness and effectiveness in young Russian entrepreneurs. Registration for all of his workshops quickly maxed out those spots available. The workshop trainers included Andrey Nguyen, managing partner at Viamedix, who
spoke about start-up evaluation; and Andrey Yakovlev, financial expert at World Bank, who spoke about the basics of financial management in start-ups.
The majority of the audience consisted of young business professionals and/or students, who would like to start their own businesses in a variety of fields. Several participants commented on being impressed by the caliber of guest speakers. There were 12 participants who attended all 3 workshops and received certificates of participation at the end.
Total participants: 143 participants (total)
Outcomes: Dmitry published a handbook, “The Basics of Law for Entrepreneurs,” which was distributed to our audience. He was also able to use his funds to do outreach at a conference in Kazan, representing both his project as well as the American Center, which reached over 1,000 visitors. Several of his workshop participants continue to attend our business-themed events at the American Center.
The Amazing Grammar Cube!
A workshop led by IVLP alumnus and MELTA Committee Head, Dr. Peter Stepichev, to learn how to use Gramik, an innovative cube intended for visually impaired and blind students learning English. Dr. Stepichev patented this cube and was able to print 100 copies through this project, distributing them and other resources to schools and institutions that work with visually-impaired children. His project was brought to a Russia-wide conference for teachers in Kursk and was even brought to the attention of visiting U.S. Undersecretary Richard Stengl at an Embassy event, who was thoroughly impressed. Dr. Stepichev’s workshop at the American Center included an audience of both Russian and American teachers, all of whom working with BVI students. The session was divided into three parts: introduction of the concept, group activities and teacher networking.
Total participants: 24
Learning about Aphasia Workshop
Dr. Olga Dragoy, Fulbright alumna, conducted a workshop at the Higher School of Economics on aphasia. Her co-trainers were Svetlana Malyutina and clinical speech-language pathologists from local Moscow hospitals. Dr. Malyutina informed the audience of students and professors about aphasia as a speech disorder, which factors and diseases (cerebral stroke) cause it and pointed out that millions of people worldwide are affected by it. The clinical speech-language pathologists addressed the following questions during the lecture: How to help a person with aphasia? Which brain parts are damaged and language abilities are impaired? Can one fully recover from aphasia? Where to seek help if someone in your family has aphasia? How to communicate with a person who cannot speak or understand speech?
Among the attendees were students of linguistics, pedagogy, medicine; educators, medical workers, doctors-practitioners. The topic raised a number of questions among professional doctors and researchers on how to use the findings in practice and how to help people with such a diagnosis around Russia.
Outcomes: Dr. Dragoy provided information on aphasia to a critical community of experts, medical researchers and teachers, allowing them to share this information in their own classrooms and practices. While this event was not held at the American Center (they did hold their planning meetings here), AMC staff was present at the off-site event and shared information on virtual resources.
Total participants: 40
Social Entrepreneurship for the Elderly
Alfiya Kabirova’s project was primarily based outside of Tyumen in the town of Yalutorovsk in coordination with the local mosque to provide social entrepreneurship opportunities for Islamic elderly women there. The project included several successful meetings and seminars as well as the creation of the “Grandmothers-Granddaughters” Studio, which produced several crafts such as toys and clothes for the local community.
Alfiya traveled to the American Center to give a presentation on this project and spoke about the vital importance of enabling the elderly with skills to this presentation was to be able to connect with other community leaders in Moscow to use these ideas and suggestions for similar initiatives in the Moscow area. The participants who did attend did ask several questions about her example.
Outcomes: The project itself was quite successful in Yalutorovsk, empowering both young girls and elderly women to work together in their community. The project is still continuing strong today and photos below are from their activities in Yalutorovsk.
Total participants: 3 (on site), 30 (in Yalutorovsk)