By Scott Noble
ATHENS — Concord University recently hosted representatives from Volga State University of Technology located in Yoshkar-Ola, Russia.
Dr. Evgeni Romanov, rector (or president), Dr. Tatiana Nureeva, professor of forestry at VSUT, and Dr. Vladimir Shalaev, dean of social sciences, joined members of the CU faculty as well as students from the International Students Club for a social in the Alumni Lounge Monday. The event was an opportunity to show appreciation for the efforts of staff and faculty of both institutions in a relaxed social setting. Gifts and ideas were exchanged along with the occasional joke.
The two universities have had a years-long partnership that was born of the efforts of Edward Lowe, of Princeton, who was a cornerstone in building a relationship with the sister city in Russia and the establishment of a very successful international student program at CU. Over the past fourteen years, CU and VSUT have hosted students and faculty at their campuses as a means of exchanging ideas and expanding the educational experience for college undergraduates.
Dr. Susan Williams, chairperson of the division of social sciences and associate professor of the recreation tourism management program at CU talked about how the program is beneficial to both schools. “It took a few years to build these bridges, and now we are seeing the fruits of our labor,” she said. Williams says CU has offered five VUST students the opportunity to study at Concord with tow already in place. “This type of educational (and travel) experience gives both groups of students an opportunity to break down stereotypes and it really opens new doors for them as well,” she said. The Russian delegation was treated to a week-long visit to events and sights in West Virginia showcasing the natural beauty of the area and time was also set aside for shopping.
Dr. Roy Ramthun, Professor of Recreation Tourism Management Program and Director of the RTM Department gave some insight. “We were able to take our guests to Bridge Day this past weekend as well as show them some of our local state parks nearby,” he said. “Along with a shopping trip, we are going to treat them to another interesting part of Appalachia; Asheville, N.C.,” he said.
Shalaev has made about seven trips to Concord since the beginning of the exchange program and he thoroughly enjoys the experience. “When I come to West Virginia, I look forward to seeing God’s beauty in your landscape and I always find the people at Concord University to be honest, bright, kind, and friendly,” he said through an interpreter. When asked about his impression of Concord as an institution, Shalaev said the campus affords two important benefits to students. “When I first visited, I found the architecture and layout of the campus to be a great combination of art and layout,” he said. “It combines great space for learning and relaxing. Basically, a quality environment equals a quality education.
” When asked what the program means in comparison to the current political chill between the United States and Russia, Shalaev said, “This type of exchange, this type of program is a reflection of our (Russians and Americans) desire for friendship,” he said. He added the program is an example of how friendship and cooperation strengthens ties across great distances. The students and faculty of both schools, who have made the more than twenty-four hour trip between VUST and CU, agree the program has come a long way and has established a sound opportunity to educate beyond any classroom and across any border.
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