Russian Volunteers Visit NMU for Hands-On Lessons in Student Involvement
Northern is hosting two Russian women who are trying to absorb as much as they can about student governance and volunteerism in the United States so they can help develop similar programs in their home country. Natalia Sorokina (left) is a recent college graduate who serves as vice president for a student association in the Siberian town of Tomsk. Elena Golovushkina is a college senior in Ekaterimburg, where she works with student organizations and runs an English theater. The women will be on campus through Nov. 18.
“Volunteerism is just developing in Russia,” said Sorokina. “When I learned the word for the first time, I knew it came from America, but did not know all it meant. Students in Russia prefer to be leaders, not volunteers. They think it is not fahion[able]. During Soviet period, they had obligation to be part of huge student organization. Now, Russian Union of Youth is a personal decision. With westernization now, young people are beginning to understand that volunteerism is good.”
The volunteers are assigned to the Center for Student Enrichment. They are working closely with the Volunteer Center on preparations for the upcoming “Make a Difference Day,” assisting with Health Promotion Office awareness activities, attending a leadership theory course that is a component of the Student Leader Fellowship Program, and addressing civic groups and various NMU classes. They are also immersing themselves in NMU and Marquette culture.
“We visited the university radio station and newspaper,” said Golovushkina. They are very impressive. The newspaper has so many sponsors.”
Sorokina added, “We are trying to visit all possible events: hockey, football – this is new for us; in Russia, football is the game known as soccer in the United States. We are going to a rock concert. … The nature here is magnificent: the lake, so many trees, squirrels. I saw a deer. And the air is pure. You can feel it.”
The duo would like to plan a Russian week for NMU students featuring an authentic dinner, games and other activities unique to their culture. They also hope to arrange a videoconference to facilitate interaction between students in Marquette and Russia.
Their visit was organized through the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) with a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development. IREX is an international nonprofit organization providing leadership and innovative programs to improve the quality of education, strengthen independent media, and foster pluralistic civil society development. Its US-Russia Volunteer Initiative involves short-term bilateral exchanges. The 2006 program activities focus on healthy lifestyles and community development, which includes student governance.