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U.S. Exchange Programs Alumni Projects of 2016

Alumni Projects 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.

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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

Human Rights Discussion Club

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.

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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

Women’s Entrepreneurship Conference

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.

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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 roundtable 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.

The seminar concluded with OPORA Russia Women’s Entrepreneurship Committee Leader, Veronika Peshkova, who talked about their activities in developing women entrepreneurship and startups in Russia.

Total participants: 50 (first conference), 35 (second conference)

Business Startup Seminars

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.

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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)

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.

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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 

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