Another Eventful Summer for the Kathryn Wasserman Davis School of Russian

The Davis School of Russian enjoyed another eventful and successful summer in 2017, with 171 students enrolling in the eight-week and graduate programs. Level one saw a significant increase in enrollment, with 30 students beginning their study of the language. Most of the faculty members were familiar faces, as were three of our five bilingual assistants. They were joined by two new bilingual staff members, whose energy and enthusiasm were of great benefit to the team.

The cocurricular program also saw many of our favorite teachers returning, including Anna Rodionova and Sergei Kokovkin, who directed an innovative staging of Chekhov’s play The Seagull. Zolotoj Plyos returned for a concert on campus and another at Town Hall Theater and directed the choir throughout the summer. These and many other cocurricular activities provided valuable opportunities for students to relax and have in-language fun, while also providing an insight into Russian culture, literature, and music.

An evening of Russian folk music by Zolotoj Plyos, August 5, 2017


Faculty, staff, and students enjoyed watching Russian films shown several nights a week throughout the summer, with faculty members choosing a variety of their favorites to screen. At least one film each week was shown with subtitles for beginning students, while others were shown solely in Russian for advanced students.

We welcomed several guests of note to our school during the summer, each of whom presented lectures and also taught and interacted with students outside of class. Our guests included journalist and author Gregory Feifer; Margarita Pavlova of the Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg, Russia; Irwin Weil, author and professor of Russian at Northwestern University; Ilya Vinitskiy, professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Princeton University; Yevgeniy Slivkin, poet and professor of Russian at the University of Denver; and Wen-yee Ho, pianist, Point CounterPoint classical music camp.

Students in the Davis School of Russian have the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of clubs. Some allow them to be involved in activities of interest in their “non-Russian” lives, including a wide variety of sports, yoga, fitness, dance, chess, and cooking. Others offer additional opportunities to explore various aspects of Russian culture, such as Russian slang, folk art, theater, choir, and weekly “Traveling Around Russia” presentations.

As in the past, last summer’s eight-week curriculum focused on core language skills. One of the hallmarks of the program is the phonetics course, which is taught at very few other schools and is highly valued by students. This course focuses on Russian intonation and pronunciation with weekly classes and additional one-on-one sessions to work on critical skills.

The master’s program offered a wide selection of deep-content courses, allowing students to go beyond the study of the language itself. More than a dozen of these courses were offered last summer. Here are a few examples: Russian Media and Culture; Russian Foreign Policy of the 2010s; Literature and Revolution; Russian Nonverbal Communication; The Religions of Russia; and Cinema of the ’70s and ’80s.

The school also offered a two-week course on pedagogy for teachers of Russian. This professional-development course allows new and future teachers of Russian to immerse themselves in our Russian-only atmosphere and gain exposure to veteran teachers of the language. It underlines the preeminent place the school has in the field of Russian-language study and teaching, and better preparation for teachers of Russian contributes to a better education for the next generation of Russian students.

Of special interest to our alumni is our one-week refresher course for people who have attended the school in the past. Students in this course have three hours of class daily—with very little homework!—and fully participate in the life of the school. For some, it’s a great vacation, combining a visit to Vermont with a reimmersion in the language. For others, it’s a mid-career tune-up on their language skills. Either way, we welcome alumni to join us for a week next summer!

Alumni Office
700 Exchange Street
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753
P: 802.443.5183
E: alumni@middlebury.edu