The main topic of discussion was the establishment of contacts with St Petersburg University, the development of academic exchanges and joint research activities.
Sergey Goncharov, Senior Deputy Rector for Research of St Petersburg University, welcomed the guests at the oldest university of Russia and noted that St Petersburg University is one of the leading Russian universities in terms of scientific achievements and international relations.
«St Petersburg University provides many opportunities for cooperation, including in Eastern European studies. After a period of inactivity, interest in this topic has grown again, so I accept your visit with great hope», said Sergey Goncharov, Senior Deputy Rector for Research of St Petersburg University.
He added that the activity of the American Council of Teachers of Russian Language and Literature (American Council of Teachers of Russian), which supported the cooperation between universities of America and Russia in the field of Russian studies, has decreased in recent years, so initiatives of universities themselves are of paramount importance today.
The Centre for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies (CREES) at the University of Michigan is one of the oldest organisations in the USA that study Eastern European countries: in 2019 it will celebrate its 60th anniversary. Genevieve Zubrzycki, Director of the Weiser Centre for Europe and Eurasia, which includes CREES, said that building strong ties with Russian universities is extremely important for better and more comprehensive research. She noted that students receive good language training, but the participation of St Petersburg University professors in teaching would allow students to study Russia more deeply. Therefore, she suggested discussing the possibility of establishing academic mobility.
Sergey Goncharov presented several potential formats for university cooperation. For example, interdisciplinary summer schools and various opportunities for academic mobility and inclusive education can be the starting platform for the development of relations between universities and introducing Russian culture to American students. Separate discussion was dedicated to: the possibility of assigning a teacher-adviser to graduate students participating in the exchange programmes, in order to work on a thesis; and the question of what certificate can the students receive confirming the completion of training at a partner university. Turning to a discussion of cooperation in research, Sergey Goncharov invited the honoured professors of the University of Michigan to participate in the work of the Centre for Expertise of St Petersburg University. He also suggested that scholars from the two universities find relevant topics for joint interdisciplinary research that will attract specialists from various fields of knowledge. At the end of the meeting, Sergey Goncharov announced that next autumn a large-scale social sciences congress on the issues of modern anthropology will be held at the University. He invited anthropologists from the University of Michigan to participate in it. The central theme of the conference will be the problem of man in the context of modern challenges, which researchers will consider from the perspective of various sciences.
Following the meeting, a general area of possible cooperation was determined and a decision was made to formulate proposals for the content of the draft framework agreement.