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Second Raisa Gorbachev Fellow reflects on nine months at Stanford

STANFORD -- Galina S. Panova, an associate professor with the Financial Academy of the Russian Federation, is riding the crest of the wave of modernization that is crashing on the shores of the former Soviet Union.

Along with countless other fields, since the 1991 disintegration of the Soviet Union, the study, practice and image of economics is evolving rapidly in the Russian Federation of Independent States. To better adopt Western ways of teaching and researching economics, Russian economists have sought practical, global experiences which can then help Russia's own development.

Galina Panova has had the opportunity to spend the last nine months at Stanford University, engaged in a variety of economic studies, as the second (and last) Raisa Gorbachev Partnership in Learning fellow.

"Everything in Russia is changing," Panova said in a recent interview, "even the subject [of economics], even the names. And even if the names stay the same, the problems are different because of all the changes taking place now; they couldn't leave the subject as it was before, two or three years ago. That's why we are working on new textbooks and new lectures."

Panova has been busy at Stanford with classes in the Graduate School of Business and the Department of Economics, a visit to the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, meetings with bankers, businessmen and specialists in finance and capital markets, and participation in economic conferences and meetings.

Additionally, Panova worked extensively on a project proposal entitled "The Role of Banks and Banking in the Growth and Development of Russia," along with her faculty mentor John Litwack, assistant professor of economics.

The fellowship was made possible by funding from the San Francisco-based Friends of Raisa Foundation, and was designed to promote a shared understanding of economic issues between the United States and the Russian Federation.

"We felt the Soviet Union needed people who had firsthand experience with market economies, and so we suggested to Raisa Gorbachev [in 1990] that she name a committee that could select mature people as candidates," said Ingrid Hills, who organized this year's fellowship along with San Francisco resident Dodie Rosekrans and the Friends of Raisa Gorbachev.

"It's [been] a really lucky opportunity for me, and I didn't expect it," Panova said.

Panova's Stanford experience

The selection committee sought candidates with enough influence to effect changes in Russia, while giving preference to female candidates in order to encourage their high-level participation in business, academia and government.

Five years ago, Panova was able to spend a year studying at the London School of Economics. This previous exposure to the West made her year at Stanford less intimidating and strange, she said, although she noted Western confusion about the Russian culture.

"This university has been a good experience for me," Panova said. "I can compare styles of teaching.

"The teaching style is a very democratic one; the main thing is lectures, not seminars or discussions," she said, adding that this approach gives professors more time to actually teach.

"I like this. In Moscow, it is half lectures and half seminars."

Panova said the extensive use of technical and mathematical information in Stanford courses also will influence the way she teaches her future classes.

Currently, Panova is organizing a conference on the problems of development in the Russian banking system, which will take place in Moscow in July at the Financial Academy where she teaches. It is expected that students, bankers and government officials will attend. She also is working on a comparative, multidisciplinary research project on the development of the Russian banking system, with Litwack and economist Harry Makler.

Panova is confident she can positively affect the course of Russia's economic development. "The banking system is now developing in Russia, and the capital markets and investments are just developing. All these experiences I received here I could implement.

Panova also is planning a visit to Washington, D.C. and New York City to observe the American market economy in action.

"Working on the project proposal of the growth and development of banking will help governments a great deal," she said, "not only the Russian government, but the American government and world financial institutions, such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Bank of Reconstruction."

In addition to sharing her classroom knowledge, Panova plans to deal with top Russian authorities to enact changes in the working Russian economy.

Premature end for fellowship

Although the Raisa Gorbachev fellowship was meant to sponsor three people over three successive years, a lack of funding has halted the program after only two years.

Panova may be able to find other sources of funding for her research, she said, because "Some [Western] businessmen also are interested in developing relations with banks in Russia. They are looking to invest in Russia, which is why they are interested in developing the Russian market. Maybe as a consultant I could take part in this work."

During the academic year, Panova was inundated with research, writing, and attendance at conferences and classes, so she is taking a week at the end of June to travel the United States with her 9-year old son, who especially wants to visit Disneyland and Universal Studios. Galina Panova expects to see somewhat more entertaining examples of the American capitalist ethic, alive and well in full Technicolor.


This story was written by Elizabeth Bacon, a news writing intern with the Stanford News Service.


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