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Coady Brownstein

Russian studies, 2008

During my four years at the University of Kentucky, I discovered my passion in life. My freshman year, I signed up for a Russian language class, and just fell in love with the language, the culture, and the literature of the Russian people. I had the incredible opportunity to take language classes from full professors, one of whom is the head of the department! I have since learned that a professor teaching an introductory language course is a rarity, as they are generally taught at universities by lecturers or graduate students, as well as an incredible treat. My first year teacher could answer any possible question I had in a completely logical way, and her enthusiasm for the subject was absolutely contagious. I am now teaching my own first year Russian class at Indiana University in Bloomington, and one of my goals is to impart the very clear understanding and joy of learning that Professor Rouhier-Willoughby was able to impart to my Russian 101 class at the University of Kentucky. But I am getting ahead of myself. 

After my graduation from the University of Kentucky in 2008, I had plans to attend Indiana University in Bloomington to receive my Master’s degree at their Russian and East European Institute. I deferred my acceptance, however, and spent a year teaching middle school in Indianapolis through Teach for America. When I returned to graduate school, I felt sure that I wanted to make studying Russian my career.  I received graduate funding at Indiana University in Bloomington, in part because of the letters of recommendation which my undergraduate teachers at the University of Kentucky wrote for me. The Russian department at the UK is unusual in that the professors spend so much individualized time with their students. I feel confident that the letters I received were personalized in a way that might be unusual for such a large university because the majority of my classes in the Russian department after sophomore year had very small class sizes. I even had one professor (Professor Lee) who was willing to meet with me only, three times a week for an hour, for two semesters, so that I could read Anna Karenina in Russian, in its entirety.

 I recently completed the Master’s degree coursework at Indiana University in Bloomington, and once I finish writing my thesis, I will have my degree from their Russian and East European Institute.  I have since re-enrolled in Indiana’s Slavic Languages and Literature graduate program. It is a M.A./Ph.D. program in which I am focusing primarily on Slavic linguistics. Again, the letters of recommendation I had received from my professors at the University of Kentucky helped me to receive funding to pursue my academic goals without accruing student loans. And this spring, my funding has taken on an entirely new form: I am teaching a Russian 101 course! As I stated before, my model for teaching this class is my own Russian 101 teacher from the University of Kentucky, Professor Rouhier-Willoughby. Every day I hope to bring the same energy and enthusiasm to class that she does. I spend hours every night preparing, so that I can provide something akin to the wonderfully clear explanations of Russian grammar with which she provided me. (Russian grammar includes a case-system of six cases with various endings which can be very confusing for students.) Despite the many hours of hard work that have already gone into this semester, I am enjoying my new work tremendously.

  I thank the University of Kentucky’s Russian program for introducing me to the study of Russia. My professors spent countless hours of individual time with me, which I believe surpasses the attention a student could receive even at the smallest of colleges. I can remember my parents’ amazement at the amount of time and energy my Russian professors were willing to spend on their students. (Both of my parents are professors, and so I think their very positive reaction is indicative of the high caliber of UK’s Russian department.)  My second year Russian teacher, a native Russian speaker, would even invite us to her home to watch Russian movies every other weekend!  I cannot emphasize enough the positive impact the Russian department at the University of Kentucky has had on my life. I would recommend taking a few classes in it to any student, no matter their major!