Alumni Projects 2020-2021
The Inclusion Lab is the project by Anna Kibenko, 2017-2020 Fulbright Foreign Student alumna, a passionate inclusion researcher, and activist. The idea of the project was to build a virtual bridge between Russian and American inclusion activists. The Lab consists of two parts: online workshops and resources.
Six Online Workshops took place in April 2021. 43 people attended the workshop focused on “How to Do Inclusion Events and Classes” and conducted by Patty Mitchell, a founder of Passion Works community arts center. Passion Works welcomes anyone to open the studio door and step into its “low tech – high magic” world with bright colors, laughter, new friendships, art, and painting. During the workshop, Patty shared the specific inner workings of the studio and gave insights on how to change the deficit-based narrative of disability. The workshop recording is now available online. Patty Mitchell also conducted several individual mentoring sessions.
The second online workshop titled “Inclusion Through the Eyes of an Educator: 6 Co-teaching Models” was led by two experienced educators Dr. Karen Oswald and Dr. Areej Ahmed. The workshop included an overview of co-teaching models, case studies, quizzes, and Q&A. Educators (teachers, extra-curricular educators, museum educators), professionals from the non-profit sector, students, parents, and volunteers who are involved in creating inclusive programs attended this virtual workshop. The workshop PowerPoint is available online.
Participants all over Russia and even beyond including participants from Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan joined the event. To be more exact, 400 people learned about the project and read quotes about inclusion from printed posters. Over 900 people visited the project webpage, 238 people signed up for the project newsletter (6 issues throughout the project).
The second part of the project was aimed at sharing the resources with those interested in inclusive education. Workshop recordings, presentations, and a series of The Inclusion Cheat Sheet videos with stories of 4 Russian and 2 American inclusion activists (parents, educators, non-profit founders, creative professionals) became available to the audience. Through personal stories, these videos illustrate how to build a positive mindset towards inclusion.
The information about The Lab was posted on the UralDobro portal, the news page of the Parent-Teacher Union nonprofit, the All Included portal, and the Moscow Pedagogical State University news page.
The Inclusion Lab connected people committed to building inclusive communities. Apart from supporting participants’ determination and positive energy, the project provides educational professionals with specific mechanisms for building positive inclusion.
When asked how she came up with an idea to run a project titled Together Olesya Ushakova, an Open World program alumna and an owner of “Tasty Taiga” company, said “It all started with a dream”. She shared her dream to bring together women entrepreneurs from Russia and the US in one project.
Then her dream started turning into words, and words turned into actions when Ushakova participated in the American Center Support Program for Alumni Projects.
She launched a series of online meetings on the topic “How Women Entrepreneurs Survive the Crisis Today”, using Russian and American experience. Since it’s been almost a year from the start of the Covid-19 pandemic which changed the world in many ways, she felt it to be important to share real stories of women, the owners of small businesses, and have an opportunity to look at the challenges from different angles, both economical and cultural. Those examples and solutions served as inspiration and a vector of what to do with the small business project today and what not to do to avoid the closer, but rather reformat it for the new reality, how to get the best out of the crisis and make sure that your business survives and lives. Female entrepreneurs need more support than anyone else, especially moral support, and to be among “their own” today is very important. The topic of women’s business is relevant both in Russia and the United States, and the exchange of experience today is more important and necessary than ever.
For two months, the project “Together” united many awesome people from two countries. Olesya Ushakova conducted 4 meetings with 16 speakers (both Russian and American), wrote and received hundreds of letters, received thousands of likes on the Facebook page.
During online meetings, Russian and American businesswomen talked about such topics as starting your business (from an idea to realization), support measures (where to look for support and how to get it), taxes, the types of businesses that are more often opened by women, success stories from Russia and the US, how to work in the markets in Russia and the US, the export capacity of two countries, and many more.
For the participants of the project, those were inspirational as well as very informative sessions providing tips on better practices, increasing motivation, and bringing hope for the future.
The project received amazing feedback from the audience and the organizers of the project are planning to continue it with more online events. “This is a fantastic feeling when the boundaries are blurred and people are united when you are doing what you really like and enjoy doing with a team of top-class professionals”, says Olesya Ushakova whose dream became a reality.
The stories about cooperation and mutual support between the US and Russia fostered through the Lend-Lease program were told by both American and Russian partners of the project.
This project is especially relevant in 2021, the 80th anniversary of operations codenamed “Dervish” – the passage of Arctic convoys from the U.S. and Great Britain to the north of the Soviet Union.
For citizens of Arkhangelsk, this date is special as there are many personal stories of families, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of those who won the victory over fascism. Arkhangelsk Regional Lore museum has a collection of artifacts, including documents, photos, uniforms, medical documents, and even some models of ships that participated in Arctic convoys. This historical period became the base of the special relationship between Arkhangelsk and Great Portland (Maine, USA) where the New English Shipping Corporation was established to build and launch 236 Liberty-class vessels by the order of the US government.
On August 28, 2021, the video stories were presented during the International video conference “Hands Across the Seas” devoted to the 1st arrival of Arctic convoys to Arkhangelsk and the beginning of a long-lasting relationship between two cities. A copy of the movie was presented to the Library of Congress and the International Congressional Leadership Center in Washington, DC.
Proposed and implemented by Bulat Idrisov, a Fulbright program alumnus, a lecture and researcher, a podcast show “Chi Kvadrat” (кайквадрат), focused on pressing issues and spiced with evidence and humor, gains popularity as new episodes become available online on all major podcasting platforms.
The episodes covered such issues as medical education, science, covid vaccines, pirated dissertations, psychotherapy, and public health, the difference in medical education in the US and Russia.
Among the guest speakers were: a professor at the Higher School of Economics, an artist from Moscow, a psychotherapist and psychiatrist, a vaccine researcher and epidemiologist, a Founder of the online health school.
To ensure the sustainability and continuation of the project Bulat launched a crowdfunding campaign. The podcast is also featured in the Russian iTunes Social Science category as a top popular podcast Stay tuned as more episodes are planned and next season will be in the English language with Fulbright alumni and other international experts who had experience with Russian science and healthcare.
Proposed and implemented by a Fulbright International Education Administrators program alumna and Sberbank HR manager Julia Ampilova, the project was designed to develop self-presentation skills for successful job interviews in English. The project combined two important elements: the development of English language skills and business communication skills for competent professionals in the 21st century. It was aimed at helping young professionals, university students, and recent graduates to succeed in starting and building a career in an international environment and becoming competitive world-class professionals in the future.
Evgeniya Pshenichnaya, an IVLP alumna, developed a project “Science Festival at the Library” which was hosted by the Public Scientific Technological Library of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Novosibirsk). The Festival ran from February to October 2021 and consisted of 4 traditional events, including Day of Science, The Night in the Library, City Days of Science, and Nauka0+. Online popular science lectures with famous scientists and businessmen and interactive exhibitions of science and technology achievements promoted interest in science and inspired young library patrons to participate in various cultural, educational, and scientific events.
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