Congratulations to REECAS Grads!

Hats off and a round of applause to the Class of 2020! The 2020 graduates in Russian, East European, and Central Asian Studies (REECAS) have been undergoing interdisciplinary areas studies training to become future leaders and experts in the ever-evolving international landscape.

Their global perspective includes a broad understanding of the cultural, political, economic, social, and historical factors that have shaped the development of Russia, Central and Eastern Europe, and Central Asia. They have honed methodological and analytical skills to contribute to a better understanding of the region through research. And they also developed a professional level of proficiency in REECAS languages.

CREECA offers undergraduate and graduate-level certificates, a doctoral minor, and a Master of Arts degree program in REECAS. CREECA recently caught up with two of this year’s graduates, Amy Beilke and Madina Djuraeva, to learn about their academic-professional journey and to hear highlights from their time at UW-Madison.

Amy Beilke, who is earning an MA in REECAS, has enhanced her study of the region through her work as a project assistant for the Wisconsin Russia Project, coordinating the many logistics and moving parts that make that project a success.

What inspired you to pursue a graduate degree on the REECA region?

AB: “Interestingly, I started with self-studying the Macedonian language, simply because I made a friend from Skopje. After learning Cyrillic, I thought about how much I loved Russian literature, history, and art, so I formulated a plan to return to school for Russian area studies after having a career in a completely different field. I received one of my bachelor’s degrees at UW-Madison, so I already knew countless reasons why I love Madison in general and the campus more specifically.

MD: “As a Central Asian and perhaps the only Uzbek back in 2010, I got acquainted with several wonderful individuals from the post-Soviet regions or those who specialized in area studies. At first, it was the Russian language that connected us, but with the summer CESSI courses, I was also able to utilize my other native languages, Uzbek and Tajik, as a CESSI instructor. I’ve always been fascinated by the rich history and sociopolitical transformations of the former post-Soviet regions and this interest inspired me to study REECAS at UW-Madison. The knowledge I had received came in handy when conducting fieldwork for my doctoral research and writing a comprehensive contextual background for my study on multilingualism in Central Asia.”

Madina Djuraeva, whose specialization is world language education, is earning a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction and a graduate certificate in REECAS. She has taught with CESSI and volunteered in the local community in key outreach events related to the CREECA region.

What is a highlight about your time at UW-Madison?

MD: “Having been part of REECAS, I made many good friends and colleagues. These interactions were the most impactful in shaping my thinking and interests. I am also grateful for the research travel awards I received to conduct my fieldwork in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Without this support, I would not have been able to collect the primary data for my doctoral research. Additionally, I always enjoyed the opportunities to participate in community outreach events and invited lecture series.”

AB: “I loved meeting and studying with all my instructors, professors, and classmates. I don’t have the space to mention everyone, but a very special thank you to Jennifer Tishler, because none of this would have been possible without her support. I was inspired by Francine Hirsch and David McDonald. I was impressed by Karen Evans-Romaine every single day. I was encouraged by Maksim Hanukai to be creative and by Sergei Karpukhin to be more confident. Of course, no graduate degree would be complete without library research – for this I give thanks to our Senior Academic Librarian, Victor Gorodinsky. To the visiting scholars from the Wisconsin Russia Project and TAs from the Department of German, Nordic, and Slavic who listened to my countless mistakes – thank you for your patience!”

 Where do you see yourself after graduation? 

MD: “I am looking forward to receiving an academic position, through which I could share my knowledge and expertise about the region.”  

AB: “Although the economy and unemployment are going through tough times in conjunction with the arrival of COVID-19, I am so happy that I’m lucky to still be healthy. Like many of you, I dream of traveling as much as possible but because most of my family lives in Wisconsin, I plan to stay in Madison – at least for now! Having combined the TESOL Certificate [Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages] with my MA program, I’ve increased the ways I can put language skills to work.”

What else would you like to share with the CREECA community? 

MD:I am fortunate to be part of the CREECA – a diverse community of supportive individuals.”

AB: “Whether you are a student, faculty/staff member, or community member, be sure to take advantage of low priced (sometimes free!) concerts such as the UW Russian Folk Orchestra, films at the Memorial Union and Union South, and the CREECA lecture series in Ingraham Hall. On the CREECA website, one can find several years of the lecture series in podcast form. The CREECA Facebook page is a good way to find links for streaming movies such as those which would have played at the Wisconsin Film Festival. Recently, I watched a great, original documentary on Ukraine, Stalking Chernobyl, and stage productions of Onegin and Anna Karenina.”

CREECA extends congratulations to all the REECAS students in the Class of 2020. In addition to Amy and Madina, we recognize MA in REECAS May and August graduates Jeffrey Fredrich, Chloe Geshwind, Megan Ryan, and Katka Showers-Curtis, and also those undergraduates earning a certificate in REECAS: Stephen Jones, Katherine Katula, William Keenan, Hannah Kellogg, Victoria Paige, Abigail Routh, Sonia Santaella, and Cadin Truesdale. 

Written by Ryan Goble