Two University of Michigan units have collaborated to win a grant to strengthen student understanding of the cultural, economic, social, and political issues of Russia and the surrounding region. The Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies (CREES) in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts’ International Institute and the International Policy Center (IPC) in the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy are launching a two-year program to fund student-driven professional development that will prepare them for careers in U.S.-Russia relations.

The program, “Developing Future Leaders in U.S.-Russia Relations,” will feature three main activities, all of which focus on professional development. 1) Support for student-initiated projects developed by U-M undergraduate and graduate students to engage on Russia-related issues through experiential training opportunities, such as short work-study projects or off-campus professional training sessions. 2) A series of professional development workshops at U-M that are open to students from other Midwestern universities. These will focus on building practical skills and will be led by practitioners who may include former diplomats, civil society leader, and business or media professionals. 3) A colloquium engaging students from across the Midwest, featuring a simulation exercise on policy issues in the U.S.-Russia relationship.

Drawing from the strengths of CREES and IPC faculty and networks, the program will employ an interdisciplinary approach to provide U-M student leaders the opportunity to learn about issues relating to rule of law/governance, economic practices, and civil society engagement. The program will also focus on delivering the cultural, economic, social, and political knowledge and sensitivity that is necessary to engage in productive dialogue with Russian partners on ways forward.

CREES Director Geneviève Zubrzycki, professor of sociology, and IPC Director John D. Ciorciari, associate professor of public policy, are leading the project. “The need for experts on U.S.-Russian relations is more acute than at any time since the end of the Cold War. Future leaders need a strong grasp of the cultural, economic, social and political dynamics of the areas in which U.S. and Russian interests most clearly intersect. This regional perspective is one of the key strengths of U-M, the Ford School, and CREES,” says Zubrzycki. “This program will train the next generation of leaders to discern how points of conflict can be managed most effectively, where convergent values and interests lie, and what opportunities for diplomatic and economic cooperation exist,” Ciorciari explained.

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The University of Michigan Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies (CREES) is dedicated to advancing and disseminating interdisciplinary knowledge about the peoples, nations, and cultures of Russia, Central and Eastern Europe, and Eurasia, past and present. Through its own academic programs and its support of area-focused training and scholarship across U-M’s schools and colleges, CREES helps meet the nation’s ongoing need for experts with deep contextual knowledge who are proficient in the region’s languages. CREES is an affiliate of the Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia and constituent unit of the International Institute. For more information, visit

The International Policy Center (IPC) serves as a hub for interdisciplinary research and global education. It covers three research domains: international economic development, international security, and human rights. For more information, visit