Grants—new and renewed—bolster CREECA’s language learning programs for summer 2022

The Pushkin Summer Institute (PSI) has been awarded a $150,000 grant from the U.S. Russia Foundation (USRF) to support its intensive, residential program for summer 2022 that will welcome its first in-person cohort since 2019.  

PSI-Madison, launched in 2012 and administered by CREECA with the Department of German, Nordic, and Slavic and the Language Institute, is an empowering and transformative educational experience intended to spark interest in Russia and Russian studies among American high school students from underrepresented communities. 

2017 Pushkin Scholars at Der Rathskeller with David Bethea and Anya Nesterchouk. Photo credit: Larisa Doroshenko.

The five-week program builds students’ Russian language abilities; cultivates critical thinking, reading, and writing skills; prepares students for college life; and introduces opportunities available at UW-Madison and in careers requiring expertise in the Russian-speaking world. 

“We’re hoping this can be a game-changer for us,” says David M. Bethea, professor emeritus and PSI faculty director. “The USRF grant places the emphasis precisely where our program needs it most: the channeling of language, literature, and culture study into exciting career options in the international arena.”

USRF funding will cover instructional, housing, and administrative costs for this first and most essential stage of a multi-tiered project in Russian studies. Graduates of PSI-Madison are prioritized for an in-country Russian language immersion program through the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y), fully funded by the U.S. Department of State.  

A number of PSI alumni are then admitted to UW-Madison’s nationally recognized Russian Flagship Program funded by the Language Flagship, which places students on a fast track to superior linguistic competence. Graduates of the Russian Flagship Program possess the skills to succeed in a professional career related to Russia in the public or private sector. 

“What we have accomplished at PSI over the last 10 years is truly unique,” says Anya Nesterchouk, PSI program coordinator and on-site director. “In addition to providing opportunities for intensive language learning, intercultural communication, and college immersion, our program has contributed to the equitable access to world language education and diversity on campus. This grant will help us keep this important mission alive.” Applications for PSI-Madison will open in early 2022.

In other news, the Central Eurasian Studies Summer Institute (CESSI) received a Title VIII Grant from the State Department to award fellowships to 10 graduate students and regional specialists studying a Central Eurasian language next summer to advance their multilingual and professional goals. Support includes tuition remission and a monthly stipend for the eight-week program.  

Students socializing at a Dastarkhan-style meal organized by CESSI in 2018. Photo credit: Yasha Hoffman.

CESSI finished its tenth run of intensive language study this August with a record-breaking breaking cohort of 35 participants studying Kazakh, Tajik, Uyghur, and Uzbek.

In addition to Title VIII, CESSI will also offer scholarship support through the FLAS (Foreign Language and Area Studies) program of the U.S. Department of Education. 

Meanwhile, a three-year study by WISLI (Wisconsin Intensive Summer Language Institutes) and the Language Institute is underway to study the speaking proficiency gains among participants of CESSI and four other UW-Madison summer intensive language learning programs operating under WISLI.  

Dianna Murphy, director of the Language Institute and a CREECA affiliate, serves as principal investigator for the study, “The Speaking Proficiency Outcomes of Face-to-Face and Online U.S. Intensive Postsecondary Summer Programs in Less and Least Commonly Taught Foreign Languages.”  

The research, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Title VI, International Research and Studies (IRS) Program from 2020-2023, has already recruited learners of Kazakh, Turkish, Uyghur, Uzbek, and 11 other less commonly taught languages.  

CESSI 2022 and Title VIII applications will open this fall. Follow CESSI on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates on funding opportunities and application deadlines. 

Written by Ryan Goble | Communications Project Assistant | CREECA