Image of Professor Akaha and students on their research trip
Students and Professor Akaha in Khabarovsk during the Russian Far East Research Trip 2017

The field Research trip to the Russian Far East was a fully-funded experience that took successful applicants to Vladivostok, Khabarovsk, and other cities in the Russian Far East.

In the Spring of 2017, the Monterey Initiative in Russian Studies (MIR) enabled Professor Akaha and four MIIS students – Aleksandra Evert, Matthew Levie, Tracy Lyon, and Rory Roccio – to travel to the Russian Far East from March 24 to April 1 to conduct field research on regional developments in energy, migration, ecology, and international education and the impact of these developments on Russia’s relations with the neighboring countries of China, Japan, and Korea. After two months of pre-departure preparation, the group visited Vladivostok and Khabarovsk, the two largest cities in the Russian Far East, and engaged in one-on-one and small-group meetings with university professors, students, researchers, administrators, community leaders, and other local experts on the students’ selected topics.

In Vladivostok the group stayed at the Far Eastern Federal University on Russky Island, the site of the APEC (Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit hosted by President Putin in 2012. In Khabarovsk they were hosted by the Economic Research Institute, which is a part of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Far Eastern Branch. The students were able to fully utilize their Russian language skills in their formal and informal discussions and add immensely to their vocabulary. These discussions allowed them to gain an in-depth understanding of the varied local and regional perspectives on ongoing developments in the region that would not be possible to gain except through this type of immersive learning opportunity.

With the recent deterioration of Russian-U.S. relations, the conversations with the local people often touched on U.S. policy toward Russia and Russia’s view of it. There were opportunities for disagreements, but the MIIS group was very warmly welcomed by the local hosts and further deepened their interest in Russia. Their side trips took them to a pre-WWII fort on Russky Island, a history and archaeology museum in Khabarovsk, and a Nanai village in Sikachi-Alyan, about 90 minutes from Khabarovsk. 

Student Participants

In the spring of 2017, four students at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS) travelled to the cities of Vladivostok and Khabarovsk in the Russian Far East. Their research spans a variety of topics, from development of eastern regions of Russia, to environmental policy. They met with top experts in their respective fields to yield professional-level research papers with the assistance of MIIS professor Tsuneo Akaha.

Aleksandra Evert

Aleksandra Evert

International Environmental Policy (IEP), Master’s Candidate

Aleksandra Evert is a master’s candidate in the International Environmental Policy (IEP) program with a focus on Natural Resource Policy and Management at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS). She participated in the DPMI Cairo program working on a sustainable development project for UNIDO. She received her undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). Before coming to MIIS, she completed a year of AmeriCorps service working in urban forestry at a non-profit organization in San Jose. She has experience working in ecological restoration at environmental NGOs, as well as marketing and communication in Silicon Valley startups.

Matt Levie

Matt Levie

Public Administration (MPA), Master’s Candidate

Matt Levie is a candidate for the Master’s in Public Administration degree at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, with an emphasis on Development Policy and Practice, and he is a Graduate Assistant with the Monterey Initiative in Russian Studies. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Social Studies from Harvard College, and his undergraduate thesis analyzed the transition of the official communist party newspapers Népszabadság in Hungary and Rudé Pravo in the Czech Republic to a free press in the early 90s. At MIIS, his research concerns the development of civil society in former Soviet Central Asian countries and migration between countries in the post-Soviet space. In his free time, he runs a YouTube channel to help Russian speakers who are learning English.

Tracy Lyon

Tracy Lyon

Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies, Master’s Candidate

Tracy Lyon is a master’s degree candidate in the Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, and is also a candidate in the Institute’s MBA program. She is a Graduate Assistant with the Monterey Initiative in Russian Studies, and a Graduate Research Assistant at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. Her current research projects include the integration of Russia into the Northeast Asian economy via the oil and gas industry, and shifting politics in the Non-Aligned Movement related to nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament. Prior to studying at MIIS, she worked in nonprofit and social enterprise consulting, as well as technical recruiting for Fortune 500 and mid-market companies. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara in Political Science with an emphasis in International Relations.

Rory Roccio

Rory Roccio

International Policy & Development, BA/MA Candidate

Rory Roccio is a native Californian, US Marine veteran, and enthusiastic graduate student in the second semester of his BA/MA in International Policy & Development program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. He is directing his studies toward political and economic development in the Russian Federation. On the MIR research trip to the Russian Far East, Rory will be focusing on the development of higher education in Russia and its relation to economic cooperation with Russia’s East Asian neighbors.