Polyglot Leads Model UN

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CATEGORY: Academics
TYPE: Articles
RELATED PROGRAMS: International Studies, Russian Studies

“When you delve deeply into a language, you also learn about the culture and become more adaptable,” Ruxi Zhang says.

Model UN leader Ruxi Zhang ’14 brings her knowledge of languages and cultures to the study of U.S.–Russia–China relations and foreign policy. A Russian studies and international studies major, Zhang has already been published in two journals, one in the U.S. and one in Russia.

Proficient in Russian, Mandarin, Cantonese, and English, Zhang was born in St. Petersburg, grew up in Beijing, and attended high school in Canada to establish her English fluency. Because of their sojourn in Russia, Zhang’s family members all speak that language. Her father is a professor of Russian religious philosophy and her mother works with foreign students. 

Her own history makes her realize, says Zhang, that it’s important to speak at least two languages fluently. “When you delve deeply into a language, you also learn about the culture and become more adaptable,” she says. “Learning Russian, for example—the language of Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy—taught me to think more philosophically.”

With four languages at her command and steeped in several cultural perspectives, it’s no surprise that Zhang immediately joined Mac’s Model UN team, which she currently serves as secretary-general. This year the team came home from the National Model UN conference in New York with the Distinguished Delegation award (second place), having last year earned the Outstanding Delegation award (first place). Zhang has received individual Best Delegate designations at both National and Harvard World Model UN gatherings.

An even more exciting opportunity came about in 2011, when Zhang and Tsesa Monaghan ’13 (Mankato, Minn.) attended the Global Model UN conclave in Incheon, South Korea. While there they also visited the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) between the North and South, and met UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “I really appreciate that Macalester sponsored our attendance at the Global gathering,” says Zhang, adding that the student affairs staff “has been so helpful with funding and logistics.”

Last fall Zhang studied at Russia’s St. Petersburg State University, where she founded and developed a Russian-English bilingual Model UN club for American and Russian political science students. While there, she wrote a paper on multilateral governance and nuclear-nonproliferation, which was published in the journal Russian Society of Philosophy. An earlier paper on Soviet pedagogy appeared in the English-language journal Vetsnik: The Journal of Russian and Asian Studies.

This summer Zhang is interning at Washington think tank CSIS, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, where she will research projects related to nuclear security and help organize a nonproliferation conference. Other internships have taken Zhang to the Minnesota Governor’s Office, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (Washington, D.C.), and the National Model UN office and Advocates for Human Rights (both Minneapolis).

When she graduates, Zhang anticipates briefly working in foreign policy or international security research before pursuing graduate studies in international relations.

PUBLISHED: 04/30/2013