On December 16, 2013, Center for Political Studies (CPS) Research Professor Emeritus Bill Zimmerman hosted a very special video conference. Zimmerman and his colleagues from the European University at St. Petersburg celebrated the success of nearly a decade of Carnegie Corporation grants designed to train a new generation of Russian social scientists.
The mission of the project – officially called “Training a New Generation of Russian Social Scientists and Diffusing Social Science Expertise to Russian Regional Universities” – was twofold. First, place young scholars in regional universities in Russia to narrow the social science gap between the capitals (Moscow and St. Petersburg) and the rest of the country. Second, bring aspiring researchers to the University of Michigan to offer further social science training.
After several generous renewals from Carnegie, the program was completed on December 31, 2013, having provided support for 22 emerging scholars. Last month, nearly all participants were able to gather together by video conference to share their experiences. Joining them was Professor Eduard Ponarin, co-investigator of the project and himself a University of Michigan Ph.D. Beginning at 5 p.m. Moscow time (8 a.m. in Michigan), the event lasted approximately two hours. Those in Russia concluded the meeting with dinner.
Speaking a month after the conference celebration, Zimmerman reflected on the event and the program more generally. One unanticipated benefit of the effort was that it resulted in several bright people from regional universities enrolling in the M.A. program of the European University at St. Petersburg. Not surprising was how sharp the Russian scholars were who spent time at the Center for Political Studies. The Russians scholars gained a lot from exposure to what Michigan has to offer, and Michigan was benefited by their presence.
One example of this was contributions by the visiting scholars to the intellectual life of the Center for Political Studies and the University more generally. Three noteworthy examples of successes of the program come to mind. Kirill Kalinin is currently in the last stages of writing his dissertation at Michigan, working primarily with Walter Mebane. Yegor Lazarev, now in the Ph.D. program at Columbia, has a forthcoming paper in the journal World Politics which was originally penned for a seminar taught by Ted Brader. Finally, a paper that was revised by Kirill Zhirkov while he was at Michigan has just appeared in the journal Party Politics. The Center and University are very proud of the Carnegie Scholars and their peers that will undoubtedly be leaders of the next generation of Russian scholars.