Ukrainian Scholar Globalizing Southeast Missouri Classrooms

Photo of Svitlana Kuzmina

Svitlana Kuzmina, senior lecturer
in the Department of Foreign
Languages at Vinnytsia State
Pedagogical University, Vinnytsia,
Ukraine, is spending the year in
the Southeast College of
Education’s Department of
Middle and Secondary Education.

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Oct. 20, 2009 – Svitlana Kuzmina has found Southeast Missouri State University students to be “highly motivated” and “very enthusiastic.”

She marvels that Southeast students speak their mind, adding, “Everybody says what they want to say.”

Kuzmina, a Fulbright Scholar-in Residence this year at Southeast, says her first impressions of life in America have been refreshing and contrast sharply with Ukrainian stereotypes of Americans as “not very industrious” and “indifferent to other cultures.”

Kuzmina, senior lecturer in the Department of Foreign Languages at Vinnytsia State Pedagogical University, Vinnytsia, Ukraine, is spending the year in the Southeast College of Education’s Department of Middle and Secondary Education. She is assisting in teaching courses in multicultural and diversity education, Foundations of Education (School and Society) and conducting research with the faculty on comparative instructional strategies, and also serving as a resource for faculty and students throughout the college.

“It would be very useful for American youth to get to the Ukraine to appreciate what they have” here, Kuzmina said.

Under a recently signed memorandum of understanding, Southeast students will soon get that opportunity. In late January and early February, about six students from Vinnytsia State Pedagogical University will visit Southeast for three weeks. Here, they will attend Southeast classes and visit middle and secondary schools in the region.

Next fall, Dr. Jean Benton, director of International Programs for Southeast’s College of Education, Dr. Simin Cwick, Southeast professor and chair of the Department of Middle and Secondary Education, and a group of Southeast students will visit the Ukraine to explore their educational system. Benton says she and Cwick will conduct workshops for Vinnytsia State Pedagogical University students and faculty on instructional strategies and multicultural education issues.

Kuzmina says she will present workshops to Vinnytsia State faculty about educational ideas she gathered during her year in southeast Missouri.

Since arriving at Southeast, Kuzmina has shadowed Dr. Mary Ann DeLine, Dr.William Bratberg, and Dr. David Powell, assistant professors of middle and secondary education, in her Block II classes, which have taken them to various schools to visit classrooms. As the academic year continues, she will be engaged in various academic activities both on-campus and throughout the University’s service region. Within the Department of Middle and Secondary Education, Kuzmina will co-teach courses with Benton to provide students with first-person knowledge and experiences of living, working and teaching in pre- and post-Soviet Ukraine.

Benton said Kuzmina has brought a global perspective to Southeast students in a “Diversity” class she teaches. Later this year, Kuzmina will discuss marginalization and the educational process in the Ukraine.

“It is so important in terms of diversity,” Benton said. “To have Svitlana in classes, sharing her personal experiences and  her perspective on life – for students to hear what happened under Soviet rule – it really broadens understanding of other cultures and enhances everybody’s life.”

Kuzmina says she is interested in learning about incorporating critical thinking into the educational process.

“This is something we’ve never done before,” she said or her native country.

Kuzmina is an English education professor at Vinnytsia State, where she teaches analytical English, grammar and conversational English. She visited Southeast for the first time last year before securing the Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence position here this year. Kuzmina is in residence at Southeast this year through the efforts of Benton, who secured funding for the full-year grant administered by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Also during her year in residence at Southeast, Kuzmina plans to present brown bag seminars for the College of Education on topics such as the educational system in the Ukraine, Ukrainian cuisine and the social context of education in the Ukraine. She also will present a University-wide lecture and speak to the student chapter of the Missouri State Teachers Association and other student organizations.

“You can’t imagine how much I enjoy this,” Kuzmina said. “Being deprived of this opportunity to go abroad” for so long, “you cannot understand the full extent of how excited I am. This is one of the biggest and happiest events of my life.”

Kuzmina says she hopes her efforts this year lay the groundwork for broadening Vinnytsia State’s cooperation with Southeast.

“I want to thank Jean Benton for providing this opportunity for me and the College of Education for being so patient with me and for sharing everything they have over their years of teaching with me,” she said.