The Pushkin Institute opens to HC students

Hastings College “reimagined” its 20-year partnership with Pyatigorsk State University (PSU) in Russia by establishing a Pushkin Institute for Russian Language and Culture in McCormick Hall, room 110. The institute officially opened its doors with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and brief presentation by Alexander Gorbunov, rector of PSU, on Tuesday, Nov. 14.

The Pushkin Institute at HC is certified as part of an international brand of academic centers sponsored by the Russian Ministry of Education. Each center focuses on the study of Russian language and culture and offers access to online resources, methodologies for teaching Russian language, films and videos about Russian culture and a global network of other partners of the Pushkin Institute.

“The experience in all the countries of Europe and Africa and China where we opened such centers together shows that it is a good instrument to attract people from schools who are interested in language,” Gorbunov said.

PSU partnered with Moscow State University to take the Pushkin brand abroad, opening new venues at partner colleges and universities outside of Russia.

The “joint venture” between HC and PSU, its longest-standing international partner, to open a Pushkin Institute at HC intends to encourage student exploration of Russian and East European culture.

Both Gorbunov and Dr. Travis Feezell, president of Hastings College, see the center as a foundation for a future exchange program between HC and PSU.

“The idea is that if students will be interested in Russian language, here they will make first steps in it, and then maybe it stimulates the interest to come to Pyatigorsk, to come to Russia and to take part in student exchanges,” Gorbunov said.

Gorbunov and Feezell also commented on how the Pushkin Institute can strengthen the relationships between the institutions and the two countries. The technology and resources available in the room can facilitate communication between students and faculty of both schools.

“At some level we can’t understand each other without knowing each other better, and what this allows us to do is to get to know each other better, to really understand what Russian culture and Russian language (is),” Feezell said. “And again, if this can be locus for exchanges, we begin to understand each other by bringing Russian students here to understand certain things we do in America.”

The future vision for the center will be shaped largely by the students, said Dr. Rob Babcock, professor of history and instructor of Russian language at HC. Using the resources in the room, students can determine how the Pushkin Institute best fits with their academic experience.

“I just hope to make this a venue for people who are interested in a place that’s different from them to come and learn more about it, and I’ll try to meld minds with the people who come to see what direction they want to go,” Babcock said.

The decision to open a Pushkin Institute originated in Pyatigorsk and was shared with HC administrators when they visited Russia the summer of 2016. After the plans received formal approval, Babcock worked with Feezell and Dr. Gary Johnson, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, to structure curriculum to support the new center.

McCormick 110 was selected to house the institute, and student volunteers helped repurpose and redecorate the room.

The opening of the Pushkin Institute for Russian Language and Culture coincided with “Images of Russia,” a photographic exhibition in the JDAC, and an on-campus showing of the classic Russian movie “White Sun of the Desert.”