Russian program hires faculty, adds new classes

By PETER JI | April 5, 2018

Quinn Dombrowski/CC BY-SA 2.0 Last semester, the University decided to close the Russian program.

Five months after the University decided to end the Russian major and minor following the Spring 2018 term, the Center for Language Education (CLE) announced that it will be offering restructured Russian courses and hiring a new faculty member. 

Beginning in the Fall 2018 semester, Elementary Russian I and II and Advanced Russian Grammar will be replaced by First, Second and Third Year Russian. The new faculty member will also teach a two-credit Readings in Russian Studies course. 

Previously, students took Russian classes through the Goucher College-Johns Hopkins University Cooperative Program in Language and Literature, which allowed students to shuttle between campuses with Goucher faculty teaching at Hopkins.

The program was terminated due to low enrollment and logistical issues of transporting students to and from the two campuses, according to the Director of the CLE, Yuki Johnson, who also said she had no input in the decision. Although students have never been able to select Russian as a primary major, they were able to have Russian as a second major or minor.

Johnson elaborated on some of the problems with the Hopkins-Goucher program and explained how the new classes will solve these problems.

“The biggest [problem] was logistic issues,” she said. “Teachers have to drive big vans to drive the students here. The schedules are different, and that has been problematic. In the end, we have more coherent courses within the Center.”

She noted that there are pros and cons to the new program.

“It is sad to not to have those Russian faculty members from Goucher to come here and teach, but the good part is that we have our own Russian program,” she said. “The person we hired has a Ph.D. in literature... She is going to teach literature courses.”

Olya Samilenko, an associate professor of Russian at Goucher College and the director of the joint program, wrote in an email to The News-Letter that she was not consulted on the formation of the new courses or the hiring of new faculty.

Junior Ania Gradzka is disappointed with the restructuring of Russian courses.

“We’re losing a number of literary classes, and they’re only being replaced with one class. I also know that we used to have a course in business Russian, which would have applied to my coursework specifically, and we no longer offer that,” she wrote in an email to The News-Letter.

Gradzka criticized the CLE for getting rid of the previously offered courses.

“While we could take one Russian course a semester through Goucher, it’s pretty disappointing to hear the CLE characterize the new course offerings as an expansion,” she wrote.

Sophomore Emily Velandia is confused by the descriptions of the new course listings and who the new faculty will be. She has enjoyed her experiences taking Russian classes so far but is unsure what her future in the program will be.

“The reason I finally decided on Russian at Hopkins was because it was the only language that had a 5.0 rating at Hopkins,” she said. “One thing I am worried about is that I might not love the new Russian program as much as the one I originally signed up for.”

She says that she admired her Goucher professors, and she believes that the joint program was a great way for Hopkins to connect to the wider community.

“I thought it was a great way for Hopkins to be connected to the community. There’s a lot of consensus that we live in a Hopkins bubble, and the fact that the department was collaborating with another university in Baltimore was unique,” Velandia said.

Sophomore William Engfer is also skeptical about the quality of the new program.

“I loved the joint Goucher-Hopkins program because it gave us the opportunity to study beyond the dimensions of traditional linguistics, delving into literature and culture,” he wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “The professors from Goucher were superb, and they had real-world expertise that I think won’t be matched by the CLE in the new Russian classes.”

Despite Johnson’s belief that the Hopkins-Goucher program caused logistical challenges, students felt that the ability to take courses at Goucher also added flexibility to their schedules. They added that the new course offerings were confusing, especially with course registration happening so soon. 

Johnson maintains that the CLE will accommodate everyone who is taking a Russian language class. She estimates that about 25 students are currently taking Russian courses.

“Three levels and reading courses should take care of students. Those students who declared a Russian major or minor will be taken care of,” she said. 

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