The purpose of the Russian Area Studies (RAS) Program is to offer students, through its academic major and co-curricular offerings, an interdisciplinary and integrated approach to studying Russian civilizaton. Though occupying more territory than any other nation, Russia has traditionally been opaque to the outsider -- a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia has been open to the rest of the world as never before. Its cultural heritage dating back a thousand years is reviving and evolving further and is easily accessible. Russia is also a society with enormous potential undergoing rapid and radical change. For all of these reasons, students must be prepared to understand and interact with Russia on many levels. Based on the premise that students ought to experience Russia directly in order to understand it well, the RAS Program encourages study in Russia. Most RAS major study for at least one term in Russia, mainly in St. Petersburg or Moscow.
The RAS Program has been designed to provide the theoretical and practical background needed for either post-graduate study in a number of fields or for successful pursuit of a career immediately upon graduation. Russian-language classes are small in size, and each year a teacher is recruited from Russia to assist in the instruction. Three years of Russian, in addition to Russian-related course work from several disciplines such as history, literature, politics, anthropology, and art, are required for completion of the RAS major. Exceptional students may pursue an honors program, which requires a thesis based upon original research. Co-curricular features of the RAS program include: a highly developed multi-media language center, Russian library collections for student and faculty research, and daily television transmission from Russia, as well as occasional Russian films, guest lectures, and concerts. The presence on campus of students from Russia also enhances the program.
Recent graduates of the program have followed a wide variety of career paths. Several have completed doctoral degrees in Slavic languages and linguistics, Russian history, law, and political science. Others have worked for private firms and NGOs in Russia.