The students at North Ossetia State University probably didn’t expect a professor visiting from the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business in America to know much about Russia.
Chris Fawson teaches a econometrics class at North Ossetia State University.
Few had met a native English speaker. They were just delighted to have a chance to test out their ideas and English on the visiting professor.
They didn’t know that Dwight Israelsen graduated from USU in 1969 with a degree in economics and a minor in Russian language. Dr. Israelsen ended up writing his dissertation on fiscal policy in Czarist Russia when he earned his doctorate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has taught courses on the economic history of Russia, the political economy of the USSR and the economic transition of Russia and Eastern Europe.
Chris Fawson, senior associate dean for academic and international affairs, made the trip with Israelsen. He said students appreciated the fact that Dr. Israelsen knew so much about Russia.
“To have an American come over who loved and respected their culture was just an incredible experience for them,” Dr. Fawson said.
Dr. Israelsen and Dr. Fawson were invited to be visiting professors for two weeks in late 2008 at North Ossetia State University. The school is located in the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania, part of the Russian Federation and located in the northern Caucasus region bordering Georgia.
Some of the North Ossetia State University economics students that Chris Fawson and Dwight Israelsen taught pose in the Kurtat Valley.
The rector of the university and the dean of the School of International Affairs, where students are taught in English, invited them to be guest lecturers. Dr. Fawson taught econometrics and economic theory. Dr. Israelsen taught international economics and the history of economic thought.
“It’s a unique part of the world,” Dr. Fawson said of North Ossetia. “There’s not a lot of outside access because it’s a part of the world that has had a lot of political unrest.”
Fawson said it is an area where the Huntsman School of Business can have a significant impact.
“It’s where a visit can really change the lives of the students and the faculty we interact with,” he said. “We have a broad mission to reach out and help draw people from around the world into a global community and help them feel empowered. Our trip was an outgrowth of the Huntsman School’s focus on global vision.”
Dr. Fawson said the students were very open to learning new ideas and “looking at the world through a different lens.”
“The students couldn’t have been more generous and accommodating with their time,” Dr. Fawson said. “They would pick us up in the evenings and we’d walk through the city and they would show us the things they loved about it.”
Dwight Israelsen and Ashar Dzampaev, a student, stand in front of an Ossetian sepulcher in an ancient village of Tsmiti in the Kurtat Valley.
Dr. Fawson and Dr. Israelsen had worked with North Ossetia State University in 2001 when they sought USAID funding to establish an institutional relationship with the university. Because of the political unrest in the area, the program wasn’t funded, but the relationships were established.
Dr. Israelsen said on their recent trip they were exploring the possibilities of establishing a cooperative degree program like the Jon M. Huntsman School has done in China. Dr. Israelsen is the director of academic initiatives for Asia.
Dr. Fawson and Dr. Israelsen said the experience proved valuable professionally, giving them insight they would not otherwise have had.
“For us it was an educational adventure,” Dr. Israelsen said. “I had not been to North Ossetia before. We were interested in knowing what had happened to education in Russia since the breakup of the Soviet Union; what their educational system was like, how they teach and how well prepared the students are. We were very impressed.”
For more pictures of the Huntsman Faculty teaching experience in Russia click here.