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Stanford in Moscow continues moving toward fall opening

STANFORD -- Despite Russia's political and economic turmoil, Stanford University has not wavered in its effort to open an overseas study center in Moscow by the beginning of fall quarter.

Stanford's Overseas Studies Program already has found a location for the center: only a few blocks away from the Kremlin in the former headquarters of the Communist Youth League, now the offices of the Russian Public Policy Center.

The university also has found a Russian director and faculty for the center, and has selected 11 students who want to attend the program's inaugural quarter.

"We were watching the Yeltsin situation carefully, and we are still watching it carefully. But I don't think we ever felt things had gotten to the state where we were ready to pull out," said Corb Smith, deputy director of Overseas Studies.

"Nothing yet has said we should stop. Everything says we have to do this very carefully."

The new director of Stanford's program in Moscow is Maxim Bratersky, who holds a doctorate in history from the Institute of the USA and Canada in Moscow. He is director of international programs for the Russian Public Policy Center and vice president of the Russian Science Foundation, which submitted the winning proposal for the Stanford center,

Thanks to Bratersky, the process of planning the center has gone surprisingly smoothly for Stanford - especially compared to other organizations that have tried to set up shop in Moscow.

"I think it's because we're dealing with a really bright individual who is operating within several organizations on our behalf," Smith said. "Anyone else first would have had to penetrate the bureaucracy in order to make things happen."

Logistical challenges

Stanford in Moscow will share its building with a number of other non-profit organizations. The building has classrooms, administrative offices and a small cafeteria. Stanford students will live with Russian families.

Once up and running, the program aims to provide classes and research opportunities for about 25 Stanford undergraduates each fall. Courses are scheduled in Russian language, history, politics, economics, religious philosophy and contemporary society.

Bratersky plans to teach a course on Russian politics. Other faculty will include Vladimir Khoros, department head of the Institute of World Economics and International Relations; Mikhail Portnoy, department head of the Institute of the USA and Canada; Eugene Rashkovsky, senior research fellow at the Institute of World Economics and International Relations; and Andrew Yurevitch, department head of the Institute for the History of Natural Science and Technology.

The Russian faculty members will visit Stanford next month to do background research for their courses and develop course materials in conjunction with Stanford faculty members (see accompanying story). The visit also will give them a chance to become familiar with Stanford and its students.

"Our sense was that just plunking down a group of Stanford undergraduates on faculty who haven't had a lot of experience with Western undergraduates would be a difficult arrangement at best," Smith said. "We needed to have them see the context from which our students come."

Another logistical challenge has been finding host families with whom students will live. Overseas Studies is now working with Elizabeth Cheidze, a woman selected by Bratersky, who has had experience setting up homestays for American high school exchange students.

In order to assure that the Stanford students receive adequate nutrition, the university is planning to pay each host family the equivalent of $10 a day for lodging, breakfast and dinner - at the current exchange rate, an astronomical sum for most Russians and one that should guarantee a reliable supply of fruit, vegetables and protein.

Embassy helpful

Making sure that Stanford students have adequate access to medical care in Moscow is another top priority for Overseas Studies planners.

Routine medical care and lab tests are available at the American Medical Center in Moscow, a clinic with Western-trained physicians. In case of serious illness, the staff of the American Medical Center will be able to arrange medical evacuation to another country. Students will have to pay for these services and get reimbursed by their own insurance companies.

Stanford planners also have been meeting with staff members of the American embassy, to discuss security precautions for students in general. The embassy will provide a special orientation session and will assist students in emergencies.

"Anywhere else, these things might seem Big Brotherish - but in Moscow they will be important," Smith said. "The embassy will serve as a stable source of assistance if we have to get it."

Finally, as always, Stanford will be relying heavily on the students themselves to use common sense during their time overseas.

"Moscow is probably as safe as a typical large American city, but the recent developments require a note of caution," Smith said.

In particular, students will be warned against dressing in bright ski jackets or sweatshirts, carrying cameras or Stanford backpacks, or even inadvertently showing hard currency.

"The economic contrast is so great that four or five one- dollar bills can be a tempting target," Smith said. "I think students are going to find themselves - in ways they have never considered themselves to be - extraordinarily rich in terms of their access to resources, because of their access to hard currency."

Stanford provides other opportunities to study overseas at centers the university manages in Oxford, Paris, Berlin, Florence, Rome, Kyoto and Santiago. Each year, 450 to 500 undergraduates participate in these programs.



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