Last week I had the amazing opportunity to participate in an exchange program which took me to Moscow. People, let me tell you: I never imagined that working in university research administration could provide such amazing travel opportunities. I was selected as a participant in the Eurasia Foundation US-Russia Social Expertise Exchange program, and they sponsored my travel to Russia.

I’ve been working in this field since April of 2004, and what better way to celebrate my lucky 13th anniversary than taking a trip halfway around the globe? I was paired up with a fellow research administrator and exchange participant from UMass, and together we headed off for Moscow on Saturday, April 22. We arrived late Sunday afternoon, settled into the hotel and by Monday morning, we were ready to meet Konstantin, our contact/translator for the week.

With my travel buddy, Kim

With my travel buddy, Kim

We were visiting the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences (MSSES), which has a joint relationship with the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA). The relationship between the two institutions is complex and overlapping, and required a complicated flowchart drawn by Konstantin. Honestly, it’s such a complex scenario I’m still not sure I understand but basically: MSSES is a private institution, RANEPA is state-funded, and several of the departments have overlapping sections within each separate university.

Building 9 on the MSSES/RANEPA campus - our temporary office location

Building 9 on the MSSES/RANEPA campus – our temporary office location

Over the course of the week, we had meetings with several staff and faculty members involved with the research enterprise at both MSSES and RANEPA, and we also had the chance to meet with the supervisor of the international department at the Russian Foundation for Humanities. The conversations brought to light both the similarities and differences – and challenges faced – by researchers and administrators in Russia and the United States. Some things were surprising, but others not so much. I guess that seemingly needless bureaucracy and administrative tedium are constants no matter where you are.

We had a couple of very productive meetings with some staff who often get pulled into helping faculty researchers with various aspects of grant management. They had a lot of questions about how it works at American institutions, especially related to internal tracking and the software used by our institutions to monitor grant proposals and awards. It was a really great opportunity to give pointers and explain a few things that may make their jobs easier.

I’m still sorting through my notes and impressions – there was so much conversation and information that it felt like a massive data download. And I’ll plan to get another post up soon that has more pictures of the overall travel experience. Moscow is a beautiful city, and I’m still kind of in shock that I had the opportunity to expand my professional knowledge and experience in such an amazing setting. I’m so glad I took a chance and applied for this exchange program and hope that the connections and contacts I made will continue into the future and prove to be as mutually beneficial as I think they can be.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the US-Russia Social Expertise Exchange or Eurasia Foundation.

Krista, Konstantin and Kim in the library at MSSES

Krista, Konstantin and Kim at MSSES

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