Professors from ex-Soviet state visit Albert Lea

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 25, 2002

After traveling almost 5,000 miles, Albert Lea may not sound like such an exciting destination, but to a dean, vice-president and professor from Kherson State Technical University (KSTU) in Ukraine, it has been well worth it.

The group has spent the last three days, and will spend the remainder of the week, visiting the Riverland Community College campuses in Albert Lea, Austin and Owatonna in hopes of starting an exchange program between the schools. Tuesday, they spent time touring the Albert Lea campus.

&uot;In just establishing connections, we have goals,&uot; said Frants Rogalsky, the vice-president of academic affairs, as translated by Natalya Smirnova, an English professor at KSTU. &uot;To get aquainted with the experience of training specialties at Riverland college. To let us exchange our experiences, instructors and students and to explore new educational technology.&uot;

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The group came to south-central Minnesota because a connection had been made by Harry Stevens of Austin, who worked at KSTU while he was a peace corps volunteer in Ukraine, an eastern European nation and former Soviet republic.

&uot;Realistically, the number of American students that go to Ukraine will be small because of the expenses of world travel,&uot; said Dr. Michael Bequette, senior vice president of Riverland. &uot;Most of these students came to Riverland to avoid spending too much in the first place.&uot;

Bequette said the college hopes that while students may not take advantage of the exchange, professors will.

&uot;I think this will be much more an opportunity for faculty and staff,&uot; said Bequette. &uot;We hope that our faculty will have subjects and projects to research in Ukraine. It is culturally a very rich country and would provide for a great place to do research on environmental studies, social studies, and would just provide another aspect to education.&uot;

Ukraine gained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, so they are just getting started in a more global-economy-based education system.

&uot;Education will be very helpful to Ukraine after being in the dark ages of Russian control for so many years,&uot; said Bequette.

The Ukrainian delegation said the country is ready to move forward, especially with their education and training. &uot;I spent most of my life in the Soviet Union, behind the iron wall. We didn’t know much about life and education in the United States,&uot; said Dr. Victor Kruchkovsky, 65, dean of the department of foreign economic relations at KSTU. &uot;We want our new generation to be brought up in another way.&uot;

Kruchkovsky said this connection with Riverland will be a way to accomplish that goal. &uot;This generation is living in a new time of globalization where borders are disappearing. These students are the future leaders who will work and lead together. It is neccesary that all Ukranian and American people come to understand one another and share experiences in all fields.&uot;

The KSTU sent an agreement over which he signed beforehand. Kruchkovsky said that it is their hope that the agreement will be signed by Riverland by the end of their stay.

Bequette said he has not yet decided to sign the agreement. &uot;I am guardedly optimistic of this program,&uot; he said. &uot;But at this point we still don’t know each other well. But I am becoming convinced that pursuing this is a good idea.&uot;

The Ukrainians said they have been very happy with how their trip has gone so far. &uot;We have been treated with a very kind and respectful attitude while we’ve been here,&uot; said Natalya Smirnova.

&uot;We have felt very comfortable here so far and have enjoyed ourselves.&uot;

Administrators and professors at Riverland are planning a trip to Kherson in the near future.