KU students win prestigious awards to study in Russia

LAWRENCE — Three students taking courses in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Kansas will be spending part of their summer in Russia after winning prestigious national awards.

The federal Critical Languages Scholarship (CLS) Program selected KU graduate students Aric Toler, Iola, and Alexander Melin, Garden City, as national winners for an all-expenses-paid Russian-language program. The program is highly competitive and offers intensive summer language institutes overseas in 13 critical need foreign languages.

Students will live with host families and receive 20 hours of language study a week. They will be paired with a Russian university student who will aid them in academics and exploring the culture. The eight week program covers approximately one academic year of university-level language study. CLS participants are expected to later apply their critical language skills in their future professional careers.

KU junior Amy Sinclair, Wichita, is one of six U.S. undergraduates chosen to participate in the Biotechnology and Russian Program, established by Lomonsov Moscow State University and George Washington University. The five-week summer program in Moscow allows students to practice cutting-edge science in another language and culture. It is funded by a grant from the U.S.-Russia Program of the U.S. Department of Education's Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education.

The Biotechnology and Russian Program combines advanced language study with advanced training in biotechnology at one of Russia's leading research institutions. U.S. students will also learn side-by-side with Russian students during a two-week biotechnology laboratory course.

The program seeks to provide students an opportunity to initiate personal relationships that will better enable them to collaborate with foreign scientists in the future and gain an understanding of the cultural context of science.

All winners are listed below. Brief descriptions of their career plans and academic achievements follow.

Melin, of Garden City, is a first-year student at the KU School of Law studying with a Law Merit Scholarship. He graduated from KU with a B.A. in Slavic Languages and Literature with Honors in 2006 and an M.A. in Russian, East European and Eurasian studies with a concentration in political science in 2008. He was a recipient of KU's Summerfield Scholarship, U.S. Department of Education Summer Foreign Language Area Studies Fellowship in Russia and a Bramlage Family Foundation scholarship. In the summers of 2005 and 2007 he studied abroad in St. Petersburg, Russia. Melin participates in Traffic Court at the School of Law and is also a member of KU's Chess and Russian clubs. Through the Critical Languages Scholarship, he will be attending the Bashkir State Pedagogical University in Ufa, Russia this summer. In 2013, he will be applying to the American Bar Association's Rule of Law Initiatives in Russia and Ukraine, with the hopes of forging a career working in human rights law, rule of law initiatives, trade, or development.

Toler, of Iola, is a first-year graduate student in the Slavic Department with a B.A. in English and in Slavic Languages and Literatures from KU. A recipient of the Henry Matthew Wiedner Award for writing, he was also a member of the KU Honors Program. Toler has previously studied in St. Petersburg, Russia, during the summer of 2010 through the KU Study Abroad program. Currently, he is a graduate teaching assistant for Elementary Russian II and was an alternate to intern full-time at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. Through CLS, he will be taking Advanced Russian courses at the Kazan Institute of Social Sciences and Humanities in Kazan, Russia.

Sinclair, of Wichita, is a junior majoring in microbiology and minoring in Russian. She has been on the Dean's List since 2009 and was one of 15 students named a KU Global Scholar in 2011. Presently, she works in the lab of Kathy Suprenant, professor of molecular biosciences. After returning from Moscow, Sinclair intends to attend graduate school and work in a research lab.

The Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures is in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Kansas. The College is the largest and broadest academic unit at KU. Nearly two-thirds of KU students pursue degrees from the College, which offers dozens of diverse majors in natural sciences and mathematics, social and behavioral sciences, humanities, international and interdisciplinary studies and the arts.