For over five decades the Department of Russian at Smith College has provided students with the opportunity to study Russian language, literature, and civilization. Today, perhaps more than ever before, it is important to take stock of the extraordinary and often puzzling changes occurring in Russia and Eastern Europe. We believe that only competence in language, literature, and civilization can foster the kind of real cultural and historical understanding that will allow our students to assess and evaluate recent events properly. Therefore, the Department offers two curricular options, the Russian Literature major and the Russian Civilization major. Also, we provide language training for those students, in science and other disciplines, who need to learn Russian without being Russian majors. The Russian Department actively cooperates with students and colleagues from other departments such as economics, government, and history, and we regularly offer courses in the general and comparative literature programs. In an effort to accommodate a wide variety of student interests in our language classes, we rely heavily on media (film, video, television), while attempting to stimulate and energize the learning experience through the implementation of activities that stress interaction, communicative skills, and proficiency.
A special source of interest and enthusiasm for students has been the opportunity to study in Russia and the former Republics. Students are thereby provided with the type of educational experience that introduces them to a foreign culture and to questions of ethnic diversity and minority populations, especially in the non-Western areas of Russia. Our students have studied in St. Petersburg, Yaroslavl, and Irkutsk, among other locations.
The Department, with the help of a very active Russian Club, organizes numerous activities outside the classroom, such as the Russian table, Russian teas, a Russian dinner, and other festivities connected with traditional Russian customs. The Club has also organized trips to exhibits, operas, concerts, and ballets. Outside speakers are featured yearly. Among the most successful recent events were a literary symposium on translation, which included students and alumnae scholars, and a talk by Yelena Khanga, an Afro-Russian author and television personality.
Our graduates are well prepared and very successful. They have been accepted for advanced study in doctoral programs in Slavic Languages and Literatures at prestigious universities (Harvard, Yale, Chicago). Our civilization majors have gone on to international relations programs (Columbia, University of London) and to other professional schools. Many others have found employment in the spheres of government and business.