Richland College students Lacedes Hunt and Will Frederick recently received prestigious summer internships with Shakespeare Dallas. Hunt will work with directing and Frederick will work with lighting.
“An internship with Shakespeare Dallas means that our students have the opportunity to work at one of the largest, oldest and most respected regional theatres in Dallas,” said Gregory Lush, theatre faculty member at Richland College, who will be portraying Iago in Shakespeare Dallas’ production of “Othello” this fall. “They work all summer alongside the top professionals in our field. At the end of a successfully completed internship, our students will receive personal recommendation letters.”
Internships at Shakespeare Dallas provide students the opportunity to work with top artists, designers and technicians in a professional working environment and to connect with many different theatre companies in North Texas. These unpaid internships last eight to 12 weeks and require 20-25 hours of work per week.
The Richland College Theatre program provides a well-balanced curriculum of classroom instruction and concurrent professional employment that challenges students and fosters their success in the world of drama and theatrical production. Students learn on a cutting-edge sound system and robotic lighting, giving them real-world training in all phases of production. The award-winning faculty and staff also offer in-depth classroom study and hands-on practical experience in acting, musical theatre, design and technical arts and improvisation. For more information, visit richlandcollege.edu/theatre.
Since 1971, Shakespeare Dallas has provided North Texas residents the opportunity to experience Shakespeare in a casual park setting, as well as providing cultural and educational programs to audiences of all ages. For more information, visit shakespearedallas.org.
Richland College president Kathryn K. Eggleston was recently elected to serve on the American Association of Community Colleges board of directors, with her three-year term beginning July 1.
Eggleston will be one of 32 community college representatives serving on the AACC board of directors. The board acts on behalf of AACC institutional members to create and maintain a vision for the association and to determine and ensure it is adhering to appropriate standards of performance.
As a newly elected AACC board member, Eggleston says she “looks forward to advancing key national strategic initiatives to help the more than 1,100 member community colleges to serve better their students and achieve greater success outcomes.”
Eggleston has previously served AACC in multiple capacities, including with the Commission on College Readiness, Commission on Leadership and Professional Development, Commission on Communications and Marketing and the AACC 21st Century Initiative Implementation Team 9: Faculty Engagement and Leadership Development.
Each year following its annual August board meeting, AACC solicits nominations for board seats from CEOs and presidents of institutional members. In November, the Committee on Directors and Membership Services reviews the nominations and develops the slate, which is approved by the board. Election ballots are then sent to AACC member CEOs in February to vote on the board nominees. Upon development of the slate, AACC received 19 letters of recommendation from community college representatives nationwide in support of Eggleston’s nomination to the board of directors.
“[Eggleston’s] previous and continuing service on AACC commissions, the Baldrige Foundation board, multiple chambers of commerce and the North Texas Community College Consortium are well-documented and noteworthy,” wrote Brookhaven College president Thom Chesney in his letter of recommendation to AACC. “I would add to that the deep and caring commitment she has given to employee development at Richland College by creating career pathways and support for her team members to excel at every level.”
As the primary advocacy organization for community colleges in the U.S., AACC represents nearly 1,200 two-year, associate degree-granting institutions and more than 12 million students. The association promotes community colleges through five strategic action areas: recognition and advocacy for community colleges; student access, learning and success; community college leadership development; economic and workforce development; and global and intercultural education.
For additional information about AACC, visit aacc.nche.edu.
Richland College has two upcoming Amazon Web Services Academy curriculum classes for the fall 2018 semester, beginning Aug. 27 and Oct. 22. These AWS Solutions Architect courses are designed to prepare students for the AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate certification exam.
The classes are taught by Richland College information technology and cloud computing faculty member Juli Hart. In these classes, students will develop technical expertise in cloud computing and will have access to course manuals, online knowledge assessments, hands-on labs, a free practice certification exam and a discount voucher for the actual certification exam.
The classes are flex term classes, meaning they last for eight weeks each. They meet Monday and Wednesday evenings at 5:30.
With AWS being the industry leader in cloud computing, AWS certification holders are extremely relevant and valued in today’s IT job market. According to the Global Knowledge 2017 IT Skills and Salary Survey, the average salary of AWS-certified professionals is 27.5 percent higher than those without an AWS certification.
For information on registering for these classes at Richland College, visit richlandcollege.edu.
For the fifth year in a row, Richland College is partnering with Girls Inc. of Metropolitan Dallas, a nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring all girls to be strong, smart and bold, to host the first half of a four-week summer camp for young women focusing on science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers. The camp begins June 4 is one portion of the Girls Inc. “Eureka!” model program.
This year’s camp is comprised of a new cohort of campers entering 8th grade who have committed to the “Eureka!” program through their senior year of high school.
The Girls Inc. “Eureka!” program exposes girls to opportunities and experiences where they can see themselves as important parts of the STEM workforce of the future. While at Richland College, the girls will participate in STEM and arts sessions, including robotics, programming, clay art, printmaking, dance and digital literacy.
“The focus of the camp is to expose the girls to engineering topics and lab experiences designed to encourage them to choose careers in STEM fields,” said Simona Farcasiu, Richland College electronics faculty member and lead faculty for the Richland College portion of the camp. “Through exposure to a group of female role models from both industry and Richland College, we hope these girls will feel inspired to break through barriers.”
During the digital literacy session, the campers will learn about online searches, online scams, cyberbullying, safe online talk, how to present oneself online and more, with the goal being to provide the girls with necessary tools to keep themselves safe and conduct themselves appropriately in an increasingly digital world.
Along with STEM career awareness, college awareness is another important part of “Eureka!”. Not only does the program initiate the campers’ exposure to STEM fields, but while at Richland College it gives them a feel for college life as they interact with college students, faculty and staff.
“This joint camp with Girls Inc. is an excellent way to empower young women to pursue careers in STEM fields, while also allowing us to share the wonderful opportunities Richland College has to offer and the value of a higher education,” said Shannon Cunningham, executive vice president of academic affairs and student success at Richland College.
“Richland College is an integral partner for the Girls Inc. of Metropolitan Dallas ‘Eureka!’ program,” said Erin Chupka, vice president of program services for Girls Inc. of Metropolitan Dallas. “During the two weeks Girls Inc. girls spend at the Richland campus, they have the opportunity to participate in STEM workshops with dedicated and engaging Richland faculty and are exposed to life on a college campus. Richland does an exceptional job with our young girls, and they leave excited about college and career opportunities in STEM. As each group of girls move through the five-year program, the ‘Girls Inc. Experience’ equips them to navigate gender, economic and social barriers and to grow into healthy, educated and independent women. We are grateful for the support of our incredible partners like Richland in helping to change the face of STEM and improve economic mobility for our girls and their families.”
Richland College’s portion of the camp is sponsored in part by a $15,000 grant from State Farm. Upon completing their two weeks of camp at Richland College, the girls will be hosted for one week each at the University of North Texas at Dallas and Cedar Valley College.
The girls participating in the “Eureka!” program will spend their first two summers being exposed to higher education and STEM careers at Richland College and other nearby colleges before spending their third summer in externships that will provide more focused hands-on learning in several STEM career areas. Year four will be about college and career preparation, during which campers will receive assistance on how to navigate the college application process, from studying for standardized tests to writing admissions essays and applying for financial aid. In their final summer in the program, taking place prior to the start of their senior year of high school, the young women will each be placed into a paid internship in a STEM industry in which they have expressed interest.
In conjunction with the summer camp component of “Eureka!”, all cohorts meet approximately once per month throughout the school year to participate in STEM-related field trips, workshops, career panels and more.
Richland College offers a variety of STEM-related programs, including both traditional two-year degree programs and workforce-ready certificates designed for immediate employment, through its School of Mathematics, Science and Health Professions and the School of Engineering and Technology. Richland College’s science building, Sabine Hall, features cutting-edge science labs and equipment and is a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum-certified building for its minimal impact to the environment and eco-friendly design. Richland College also houses the Technology, Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing Center, a space fully equipped with up-to-date, industry-quality technology that allows engineering and manufacturing students to gain relevant, hands-on experience and career-focused training.
Girls Inc. of Metropolitan Dallas serves a diverse population of 1,000 girls, ages 6 to 18, in the greater Dallas area. The organization focuses on the development of the whole girl through a combination of long-lasting mentoring relationships, a pro-girl environment and research-based programming that equips girls to lead fulfilling and productive lives, break the cycle of poverty and become role models in their communities.
Science and technology have merged in the anatomy and physiology classes at Richland College, and health professions students are taking advantage of the opportunity to perform digital dissections on an Anatomage Table.
The Anatomage Table is a 6-foot-long 3-D visualization tool that is fully interactive and features the most accurate human anatomy and patient data of any technology currently available. Its touch-screen display allows students to use a finger like a scalpel to make an “incision” anywhere on the “cadaver” to examine its physiological structures. To create realistic images, CT and MRI scans were taken every few millimeters on four cadavers, two men and two women, whose bodies had been donated for this project.
“The Anatomage Table is great for identification of bones, muscle, blood vessels and more,” said Jackie Reynolds, professor of biology at Richland College. “It also shows spatial relationships among organs. In addition, it is great for case studies because it allows students to see the MRI or CT scan and the 3-D image that has been produced from the scans side by side.”
Richland College students have been using the table in classes for approximately two years, and Reynolds has already received many positive responses to the machine from students, many who can see the real-life value of learning on the table.
Kassandra Agundizandmy has been working with the Anatomage Table for two semesters and has found it a useful tool as she prepares for a nursing degree.
“The Anatomage Table has been beneficial for me as the 3-D images with different views give me a better understanding of the anatomy of the human body,” said Agundizandmy. “This table has helped prepare me for my future, as it allows me to view positions of organs, vessels bones and more. My most memorable experience was when we did a case study about a man who was shot in the head and were able to learn about him through the Anatomage Table. I felt like I was a real forensic pathologist examining the skull of the man.”
Experiences like Agundizandmy’s showcase the value of offering digital dissection as an option to health professions students because it allows them to learn about unique conditions or abnormal structures that may not be available on standard cadavers. It also allows students instantly to compare the abnormalities to a normal example.
“Students really enjoy using the Anatomage table,” said Reynolds. “We don’t have real cadavers in a classroom, but this is as close as you can get. It makes studying anatomy and physiology more fun. Having this machine makes Richland College more advanced than some four-year universities in the area that don’t have the same technology as we do.”
Mildred Garcia is also pursuing a nursing degree and has worked with the Anatomage Table for two semesters. “I really find the Anatomage Table beneficial,” Garcia said. “We get to see an entire body from skin to blood vessels, bones and organs. I think it’s a great for everyone to use, especially visual learners.”
The Anatomage Table provides a multi-faceted learning experience for students with a variety of tools allowing users to visualize structures of the body. The virtual cadaver can be peeled back in layers for users to learn about muscles, organs and bones, or students can study individual systems such as the cardiovascular or nervous systems. The cadaver can be viewed and worked on from any angle, such as on its back or sitting up, to simulate potential positions a patient may be in. Specific body parts can be highlighted or removed from view, and more than 1,400 pathology images are also available on the table for students to examine. By allowing students also to revert to a previous view of the structure, layer or system on which they are working, it also gives students the chance to approach their learning from an angle of discovery and curiosity without the threat of costly mistakes such as an accidental cut.
As part of the setup for the Anatomage Table at Richland College, a double screen was added to the wall of the anatomy and physiology lab classroom to ensure that all students in a class would be able to view the work being done by peers at the table.
Anatomage is a medical device company that has been developing creative, leading-edge products for the medical and dental industries since 2004. For more information about the Anatomage table, visit anatomage.com. For more information about the health professions programs at Richland College, visit richlandcollege.edu/cd/instruct-divisions/rlc/mshp/hp/pages/default.aspx.
Richland College TRIO Student Support Services recently celebrated its 25-year anniversary during an on-campus reception. The TRIO-SSS program at Richland College is a component of the federal TRIO programs funded by U.S. Department of Education, and it serves approximately 270 students annually.
“TRIO programs are part of a legacy of educational equity stemming from the Civil Rights movement and established from the Educational Opportunity Act of 1964,” said Anita Jones, director of community programs for TRIO-SSS at Richland College. “Each year, Richland’s TRIO-SSS program contributes data on persistence, good academic standing and certificate and transfer rates to the U.S. Department of Education. The 2016-17 academic year, we exceeded 22 percent above the baseline in our certificate completion reporting.”
TRIO is a set of federally funded college-based educational opportunity outreach programs that equip and support students from low-income backgrounds — including military veterans and students with disabilities. Currently serving more than 828,000 students from middle school through post-graduate study, TRIO provides academic tutoring, personal counseling, mentoring, financial guidance and other support necessary to promote college access, retention and graduation.
TRIO programs assist students in overcoming the obstacles they face as the first generation in their families to attend and graduate from a four-year university. Today, an estimated 5 million students have graduated from college with the support and assistance of TRIO programs across the country. For more information about TRIO programs, visit ed.gov/about/offices/list/ope/trio/index.html.
Since 1993, The TRIO-SSS program at Richland College has assisted eligible students in achieving their academic pursuits by offering a number of customized academic components designed to increase college retention and graduation rates. These free services include academic advisement, tutoring, assistance in financial aid application, university field trips, college success workshops and cultural enrichment opportunities. For more information, visit richlandcollege.edu/sss.
Explore the British Isles with the Richland College Honors Study Abroad Program, May 20-30, 2019!
During the 11-day course, students will receive three hours of credit for Honors English 1301, 1302 or 2321 (British Literature) and participate in selected readings, all while experiencing the stunning landscapes and imposing medieval architecture in Ireland, Wales and England.
“Bringing history, literature and culture to life by experiencing what we’ve only seen in pictures, heard in a classroom or imagined in our minds is what I enjoy most about studying abroad,” says Erin Kelley, Ph.D., trip leader and English faculty member at Richland.
Interested students may attend one of the following upcoming information sessions at Richland College:
- May 2: 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Crockett Hall, room C110
- May 3: Noon-1 p.m., Crockett Hall, room C110; 3:30-4:30 p.m., El Paso Hall, room E055
- May 7: 2-3 p.m., El Paso Hall, room E055
- May 8: 12:30-1:30 p.m., Crockett Hall, room C110
By studying abroad through DCCCD, students save money with a lower tuition cost versus most four-year institutions.
To participate, current DCCCD students must be accepted into the Richland College Honors Program, which requires a 3.25 GPA or higher and nine or more completed college-level credits. Students who are new to college may also qualify for the program through TSI, ACT or SAT scores. Previous Richland students who have transferred to a four-year school may also return to take the course. Apply to the Richland College Honors Program to begin the process.
A $150 discount off the Education First (EF) program cost is available through May 11, with tuition for the course due to DCCCD during the regular registration period for Maymester 2019. Scholarship opportunities are available now.
Richland College computer information technology faculty members Rod Lamb and Rich Park were recently honored by Cisco Networking Academy with the Expert Level Instructor Excellence Award, a distinction that recognizes Lamb and Park as being in the top 10 percent of the academy’s instructors globally.
Lamb, also the computer information technology program administrator, has more than 18 years of experience as a Cisco Networking Academy instructor and has been previously awarded the Expert Level Excellence Award in 2014, 2015 and 2017. In addition, he has also twice received the Advanced Level Excellence Award, recognizing the top 25 percent of instructors globally.
Park also has more than 18 years of experience as a Cisco Networking Academy instructor and was previously awarded the Expert Level Excellence Award in 2013, 2016 and 2017. He also has twice previously received the Advanced Level Excellence Award.
“It’s nice to get the recognition,” said Lamb. “I think it shows the quality of the instructional faculty we have here, and I think that’s what spoke to me the most when I got it: the level of knowledge and expertise we have at Richland College.” Lamb went on to explain that very few other colleges had more than one instructor on the list of Expert Level Excellence Award winners.
Cisco Networking Academy program awards are determined using an instructor recognition score based on several factors, including participation in regional instructor online groups; participation in Cisco professional development opportunities; attention to student needs, measured by satisfaction with lab facilitation and student interest in the courses; student performance on the first attempt of the final exam; and instructor use of Cisco resources such as assessments.
Richland College offers courses that prepare students for the Cisco Certified Networking Associate and Cisco Certified Networking Professional exams. In this training, students learn how to design, build and secure intelligent networks while developing other skills such as leadership and collaboration. The CCNA certification is a foundation-level networking certification, while the CCNP is more advanced and shows that the certificate holder has the networking expertise to meet the needs of varying IT and networking job roles.
Cisco Systems, Inc. develops, manufactures and sells networking hardware, telecommunications equipment and other high technology services and products and is the largest networking company in the world.
Cisco Networking Academy program began in 1997 when Cisco donated networking equipment to a local school, but it sat unused because no one was trained on it. Realizing this gap, Cisco stepped in and trained the staff to build their network, and Cisco Networking Academy Program grew from a single school to an ever-expanding community of students, educators, employers, non-governmental organizations, Cisco employees and customers. Cisco Networking Academy has impacted more than 7.8 million students in 180 countries, partnering with 22,000 educators and instructors at 10,400 academies.
Congratulations to the 2018 Student Wall of Honor honorees! For more information on the Richland College Student Wall of Honor, click here.
Fabian Castro has been described as a self-starter who has great self-direction. But one thing he has never been is self-focused.
Fabian was beginning his third year of medical school in Mexico when his family was forced to seek refuge in the U.S. due to threats from extortion groups. Fortunately, Fabian had learned English from spending a year in the U.S. when he was 12-years-old, and he was able to become a translator for his family as they began to establish a new life. For Fabian, this new life included enrolling at Richland College to continue his education.
While at Richland, Fabian considered several majors before eventually deciding on chemistry. Outside of class, he also learned all the aspects of his father’s car business, handled health emergencies his family members faced and mediated business disputes in Mexico.
But it isn’t just his family that Fabian has helped. He is active in the men’s group and is also a reader at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church in Richardson, where he works to bring the Latino and Anglo church members together to encourage comfortable collaboration and communication.
In labs at Richland, Fabian was known for assisting those around him, yet his own work never suffered. He was also a student lab assistant in the chemistry lab prep area. When the new General Chemistry II labs were being developed, Fabian performed the test runs, documenting results and collaborating with others on modifications. He also took the initiative to improve the sulfanilamide synthesis in Organic Chemistry II. In his last year as a student lab assistant, Fabian had matured into a true lab professional and was able to assist both students and faculty members.
Fabian is now attending the University of Texas at Dallas, where he is continuing his degree path in chemistry.
Behrang Hamadani, Ph.D., is not just a Thunderduck. He’s an inspiration to future Thunderducks and an example of how success comes with perseverance.
Behrang was born in Norman, Okla., to Iranian parents studying in the U.S., and he grew up in Iran. His parents decided to send him back to the U.S. for college, and a family friend recommended Richland College.
While at Richland, Behrang supported himself with grants, scholarships, work-study jobs, tutoring for Upward Bound and retail jobs. In 1999, he transferred to the University of Texas at Dallas with an academic excellence scholarship that covered two years of tuition. Due to a positive experience at Richland, Behrang felt prepared for junior level physics classes at UT Dallas.
While completing the final year of his bachelor’s degree, Behrang taught labs and continued tutoring at Richland. In the fall of 2001, he began his graduate work at Rice University and completed his Ph.D. in 2006. He then worked as a post-doctoral scholar for four years at the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) before accepting a permanent position.
Behrang primarily works on advancing measurement science to further U.S. competitiveness standards and developing reference materials. “NIST sets standards, from the number of calories in a bag of potato chips to how to measure the intensity of light in a room,” he said. “My project focuses on evaluating the performance of photovoltaic cells and modules to develop standards and measures for industry.”
Behrang’s favorite physicist is Isaac Newton, “a man who truly loved science for the sake of science, and who questioned everything.” He has followed the same model throughout his life and believes that life becomes more meaningful for people who question the mundane and have the curiosity to explore the world around them and discover new things.
When Jewell Love enrolled at Richland College immediately after graduating high school, she had a plan in place. Little did she know one class would change everything.
Raised in a single parent household, Jewell’s original goal was to pursue a business degree with a major in marketing. She wasn’t passionate about business, but she was good at it, and it would eventually lead her to a position that would offer the salary she wanted.
Jewell studied at Richland College before transferring to the University of Texas at Dallas and enrolling in a slew of business classes. But Jewell needed an elective, so on a whim she enrolled in Introduction to Sociology at Richland.
“I had never even known anything about sociology, thus all of the material was completely new to me,” said Jewell. “However, everything we talked and learned about was so relevant and relatable to me. I knew on the first day that I needed to change my major because I had found something that was truly my passion.”
Jewell realized she had been pursuing a business degree for the wrong reasons. So, she switched her major, focusing specifically on the most important aspect of sociology that had always been prevalent in her life: race. Since then, she has participated in various research studies pertaining to how racial micro-aggressions affect students of color in higher learning institutions and women of color in interracial relationships. Her current research is looking at how the lack of diversity within the medical field affects people of color.
Jewell graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from UT Dallas in 2016. In May 2018, Jewell will graduate magna cum laude with a Master of Science in Applied Sociology, also from UT Dallas.
Even though it has been ten years since Tito Salas left Richland College, he keeps coming back. It’s because he has education and soccer in his blood.
After graduating from Skyline High School in Dallas in 2006, Tito enrolled at Richland College, where he was active on the men’s soccer team in 2006 and 2007. Coincidentally, the Richland College men’s soccer team won the NJCAA men’s soccer championship both years.
Tito transferred to William Carey University in Hattiesburg, Miss., where he continued to play soccer. Not only did Tito graduate with a 3.9 GPA, but he was also the first in his family to earn a bachelor’s degree. He also won the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Champion of Character award and was named Mr. William Carey University his senior year, an award given to the man who best represents the ideals of WCU, nominated by faculty and staff and voted on by the student body.
Upon graduation, Tito returned to Dallas and began teaching at Franklin Middle School, where he was a physical education teacher and the athletic director. He also coached soccer at his alma mater, Skyline High School.
Tito decided to continue his educational journey and graduated with a master’s in education from Stephen F. Austin State University. He is currently the assistant principal at Emmett J. Conrad High School in Dallas.
Each August, Tito returns to Richland College to speak with the men’s soccer team and has mentored former and current team members over the years. But Tito’s influence has affected more than just the students at Richland and the schools where he has taught and worked. Since his graduation from college, his three younger siblings have also graduated, including two who attended Richland College and played soccer.
Tito is married to former Richland student and soccer player Karrina Almendarez, and together they have two children, Gabriela and Xavi.
In his personal statement submitted to the University of Texas at Dallas when he transferred from Richland College, Temesgen Zerom said he learned the basic principles of mechanical engineering before he could even read or write. When you consider how he absorbs knowledge, this makes complete sense.
Temesgen is originally from the State of Eritrea in Africa, a country known for its poor human rights record. Hoping for a chance at a better life, in 2010 Temesgen paid someone to smuggle him into Ethiopia, walking for days under the threat of death if captured. He ended up in a refugee camp, near starvation, when he was discovered and deported back to Eritrea. But with his mother’s help, Temesgen finally made it to the U.S., where he enrolled at Richland College.
While at Richland, Temesgen was a member of Phi Theta Kappa and the Honors Society, and he received the All-Texas Academic Team Award, awarded to the top community college students in Texas. He maintained a 4.0 GPA despite taking some of the most demanding math and science classes offered, and graduated with an Associate of Science in Mechanical Engineering. During his time at Richland, Temesgen was also a member of the STEM Institute, mentoring middle and high school students who had an interest in science.
Temesgen’s dedication at Richland paid off, and he was awarded the prestigious Terry Foundation Scholarship as a transfer scholar from UT Dallas, where he is currently still making a 4.0 GPA.
Temesgen not only defied the odds and has a bright future, but he is also a role model for those who go through difficult circumstances. He often reminds anyone who will listen that your biography does not have to be your destiny. You can do anything.
Richland College students, faculty and staff had the opportunity to engage in discussions and hear the stories of four women from various regions of Russia during two presentations hosted by the Richland College Institute for Peace, Richland College Honors Program and the Global Education Development Advisory Council on March 29.
The women were Lena Novomeyskaya of Yekaterinburg and born in west Ukraine, Elena Ivanova of St. Petersburg, Tatyana Bukharina of Yalta in Crimea and Natalie Ivanova of Krasnodar. They came to the U.S. as part of the first Russians Meet Mainstream America (RMMA) program developed by the Center for Citizen Initiatives (CCI), an organization dedicated to reducing tensions between the U.S. and Russia and debunking misunderstandings through citizen-to-citizen exchanges, public relations and social media efforts in both countries.
During the sessions at Richland College, the women addressed the audience and told stories about their histories and what it has been like to live in Russia, including how their lives changed when the Soviet Union was dissolved. Discussion also included their perceptions and opinions of Americans, the Russian economy, Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Russian annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and other timely issues. The purpose of the discussions was not to argue or debate, but to share different points of view to educate the citizens in both countries.
“I was brought up on the idea that America is a friend of Russia,” Natalie Ivanova told the audience during the second presentation. “My father participated in the Stalingrad battle in 1942 during the second World War. He was wounded in this battle, and when I was a child he told me a lot of stories about the war, and he told me that he was very grateful to the United States.”
Bukharina’s story received particular interest from many audience members when she discussed her home in Crimea, a peninsula on the northern coast of the Black Sea in Eastern Europe that, while previously a Russian province, became a Ukrainian territory in 1954. In 2014, Russian troops captured strategic sites across Crimea and annexed the territory, a move that was generally condemned by many world leaders because it was considered to be a violation of both international law and Russian agreements that safeguarded the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
Bukharina told the audience about how, despite international opinion to the contrary, many Crimean citizens supported this annexation by Russia for many reasons, including Ukraine’s violation of Crimean human rights, such as cutting the water supply to many citizens, including farmers.
“This morning I checked my [e]mail, and my friends know that we are here with the program Center for Citizen Initiatives, and that we’re working as volunteers, and friends from Sevastopol wrote, ‘give a big thank you to the American people for returning Crimea back to Russia,’” Bukharina said. After a pause, she added, “Are you surprised?”
Honors English student Ryan Morrow participated in the question-and-answer session, and later he commented on what he learned about the effects the dissolution of the Soviet Union had on the Russian people, a common thread discussed by all four women.
“I didn’t realize how much of an economic effect the end of the Soviet Union had on the Russian economy and how much work, or how much damage, it actually did that is still persistent in their society,” said Morrow.
Similarly, Morrow’s classmate Victoria Patterson felt the presentation opened her eyes more because the women discussed many issues that are generally not mentioned by the American media.
“I think it’s really interesting how they’re saying Americans really aren’t portrayed negatively over there, yet our media typically demonizes them so much,” said Patterson. “I didn’t know most of the stuff about what happened in Crimea that Tatyana [Bukharina] was talking about, so I think it’s interesting how much we have kind of been allowed to hide.”
“What is most valuable about this meeting between Richland College students and our Russian visitors through CCI is face-to-face dialogue that brings authenticity and honesty to the forefront and dissolves the barriers created by second- or third-hand news and simple ignorance,” said English faculty member and Richland College Institute for Peace and Human Rights coordinator Scott Branks del Llano, Ph.D. “Conversations are wonderful equalizers, and this event offered humane and compassionate conversations where empathy and peaceful understanding rose above the suspicion and divisiveness that permeates much of the media regarding Russian and U.S. relations. We need to engage in many more such forums of hospitable dialogue.”
In addition to Dallas, this first RMMA delegation’s itinerary includes Atlanta, Fort Worth, San Francisco and Washington D.C.
CCI was founded in 1983 with the hope that ordinary Americans could help bring about a constructive relationship with the Soviet Union. A CCI travel program soon became a reality, with American citizens visiting Russia and Soviet republics, with the travelers developing Soviet contacts. In 1988, Soviets Meet Middle America (SMMA) was the first program that brought non-party member Soviet citizens to the U.S.
Other past CCI successes include helping bring Alcoholics Anonymous to Russia; creating an economic development program in 1989 to train young English-speaking Russian entrepreneurs in how to start a business by organizing internships for them in American companies; shipping both cold-tolerant seeds and emergency food boxes when the Soviet Union dissolved; founding programs to train Russian small business owners and to train young Russian women in the apparel industry to encourage self-employment; and teaching orphanage children computer technology skills. In 2010, CCI closed its doors after funding had evaporated during the prior several years.
CCI was revived in 2015 by its founder and president Sharon Tennison, and a travel program was restarted for Americans to visit Russia. RMMA was then initiated in 2018 in response to the growing tensions between the U.S. and Russia, with the intent of bringing Russian citizens to the U.S. to discuss major issues between the countries and reduce stereotypes and misinformation.
The Richland College Institute for Peace is committed to educating for peace, justice and the abolition of conditions that give rise to violence and war. It fosters an interdependent community that actively pursues peaceable living, resolution of conflict and respect for human dignity, contributing to the goal of global peace, justice and friendship among peoples. Programs for students, employees and the community are offered through the traditional academic curriculum, continuing education, professional development and teleconferences.
The Richland College Honors Program provides highly qualified students with an enriched and challenging academic community where they develop the capabilities necessary to excel in their educational and career goals.