“Thinking about my Post-Soviet Sphere course during the conference, it was a cool way to see how these forces come into play today.”
—Maria Gubenko ’14
Three Macalester students served as translators and social media interns at the recent Russian International Innovation Conference in St. Paul. The social media group Wendy Media contacted Professor James Von Geldern, who was participating in the event, to ask him if any Macalester students would be interested in helping with the conference, which works to build collaborative relationships among American and Russian businesses, organizations, and institutions.
Von Geldern and Russian lab instructor Ekaterina Efimenko put together a trio of students to cover the event. “It was a great experience,” says Russian major Abby Stowe-Thurston ’16 (Northampton, Mass.). Stowe-Thurston, along with fellow students Salman Haji ’14 (Albuquerque, N.M.) and Maria Gubenko ’14 (Volzhsky, Russia), covered the event through the conference’s Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ accounts. They also conducted interviews and helped translate promotional materials into both English and Russian. “People put in so much time just to make two days of conversations happen,” Gubenko says, “I was really interested in seeing how everything worked behind the scenes.”
Gubenko, an economics and math major, is currently finishing up the course Post-Soviet Sphere. “I’ve become more interested in relations between the U.S. and Russia,” Gubenko says. “Thinking about my Post-Soviet Sphere course during the conference, it was a cool way to see how these forces come into play today.”
Due to mounting tension between the U.S. and Russian governments, the conference almost did not take place. “There was talk of cancelling the conference,” Efimenko says. “But what I really liked about it was that everyone knew there were tensions, but there was no talk of politics. It was like, politics is politics—we’re doing business here.”
Says Stowe-Thurston, “Especially when what you hear in the news is negative, it’s really important to get people to connect on a personal level.” The three Macalester students were able to make their own connections during the event. “During breaks the students networked with American and Russian companies,” Efimenko says, “which is great because if you go to Russia and you’ve already talked with people from some of these companies, there might be opportunities for you.”
The Russian department hopes to continue working with the Twin Cities business community in the future. “We’re a growing department,” Efimenko says. “We’re always looking for ways to grow at Macalester, and also outside into the community as well.”