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Student-Initiated Projects

Under this program, U-M students may design and pursue short-term (approximately 1 week) experiential learning projects focusing on cultural, economic, social, and political issues of importance to the U.S.-Russia relationship. 

The Ford School and CREES are looking for a range of creative (but feasible) proposals that focus on practical professional development related to Russia and the broader region. Examples include:

  • Volunteering with organizations focused on Russian/Eastern European/Central Asian cultural exchange with the U.S.;
  • Participating in domestic or international training sessions for future American diplomats, businesspeople or economists working on Russia and the surrounding region;
  • Participating in international affairs/policy simulations related to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO);
  • Curating an art exhibit related to the region.

Proposed activities for this round of funding must take place between September-December 2021. You may apply as an individual or a group of up to four students. 

  • Awards for projects that include approved domestic travel will range from $1,500 (for 1 student) to $6,000 (several students).
  • For projects conducted remotely, awards will range from $750 (for 1 student) to $3,000 (several students).
  • For Fall 2021, SIPs may be conducted remotely/virtually OR in-person, within the United States.

Please note: this funding opportunity is open to current undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Awards may not be used to fund internship opportunities. 

For full details on how to apply, please see our brochure. CREES and the Ford School will only accept applications via M-Compass: APPLY NOW

To discuss ideas for projects or if you have any additional questions, please contact:

Deadline: Proposals for projects taking place between September and December 2021 are due, for round one (priority consideration), by Friday, August 20, 2021 at 11:59 pm. A second round of reviews will take place for proposals submitted by Friday, September 10, 2021 at 11:59 pm.

Sample Student-Initiated Projects

Below are a few examples of possible Student-Initated Projects to help eligible students prepare applications for funding. These examples include some that involve travel as well as some that could be conducted remotely while U-M-funded travel is restricted due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

  1. An Intensive Policy Research Trip
    A student could propose to conduct a week-long intensive field research trip to a regional country of interest. For example, a student interested in anti-corruption efforts could propose to undertake an in-depth study of such efforts in Armenia, culminating in a visit to Yerevan to interview key stakeholders including government officials, business group leaders, policy analysts, and NGO leaders. A successful application would identify one or more key research questions and outline a sound strategy for addressing them. The application would lay out plans to conduct research and prepare for the trip in advance, key contacts in Yerevan to help arrange a successful trip, targets for interviews, and a brief description of the planned output of the research, such as a policy memorandum. Ideally, the application also would include a notional agenda and an email from a host organization (such as an NGO, university center, or think tank) indicating its willingness to serve as a host for the visit and to help make connections in Yerevan.
  2. U.S.-based Research for an NGO in Russia or Eastern Europe (Remote)
    A student could review U.S. news coverage of a specific topic relevant to Russian or Eastern European affairs, and share it with an NGO working on similar issues in the region. For example, one could survey U.S. coverage of human rights violations occurring in Russia, consult with U.S.-based reporters working on Russia, and write a report for a Russian NGO that focuses on human rights. CREES has contacts at many NGOs and research centers throughout Russia and the region. There are also American journalists working on Russia as well as Russian journalists in the CREES network with whom a student could be put in touch.
  3. U.S.-based Research for a Cultural Organization in the Region (Remote)
    With the rise of populism and authoritarianism in the region, governments are increasingly interfering in the educational and cultural spheres. A student could analyze how such institutions are affected by political pressures via funding reductions, ideological pressures to conform to specific political agendas, censorship, and propaganda, and produce a report with policy recommendations for institutions facing these pressures, as well as for organizations supporting them in the U.S. The project would be based on documentary evidence, interviews with administrators of cultural institutions, and could be conducted fully in the United States or with some travel to the region once allowed by U-M. Institutions with which CREES has contacts include the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw.

Completed Student-Initiated Projects

Allison Pujol, a public policy undergraduate student, completed the program’s inaugural Student-Initiated Project (SIP). Ms. Pujol’s SIP, entitled “Bridges: Immigration across Two Hemispheres,” is a curated art exhibit that explores the experience of Russian and Eastern European immigrants in the United States. The exhibit features artists from Russia and Eastern Europe and incorporates various artistic styles, including Futurism, Cubism, and Expressionism. Prior to completing the exhibit, Ms. Pujol participated in mentoring sessions with professors John Cioriciari and Geneviève Zubrzycki (co-Primary Investigators on the U.S.-Russia Futurel Leaders program) to maximize the impact of the project and its contribution to Ms. Pujol’s long-term professional development.

Curating the exhibit represented an important professional development opportunity for Ms. Pujol. After graduating from U-M, she intends to pursue a law career, with a particular focus on immigration and asylum law. Ms. Pujol summed up how her Russia- and Eastern European-focused SIP helped advance her long-term career objectives: “A great immigration attorney has both historical knowledge of other countries’ cultures and backgrounds as well as a powerful sense of empathy to interpersonally connect with [a] client. This project aided me in developing both of those skills.”  Ms. Pujol’s virtual display can be found on the University of Michigan Museum of Art’s (UMMA’s) website here.