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About the Project
'HSE University's Age-Mates'

2022 marks the 30th anniversary of the founding of HSE University. Many of the university’s peers—those born in 1992—now work and study here. Thirty-year-old HSE graduates work in various fields, from business and fintech to IT and contemporary art. As part of the new ‘HSE University's Age-Mates’ project, some of them have shared their stories and talked about what they like about the university.

In her four years at HSE University, Anna Ivanova has gone from teaching freshman classes to conducting an original course on autobiographical memory. She devotes a great deal of time to teaching while also finishing her dissertation and seeing patients as a practicing psychologist. In this interview with HSE University Agemates, Ms. Ivanova spoke about gender studies, her first impressions of her department, and the benefits of general education courses.

How did you get your start teaching at HSE University?

Maria Falikman, who headed the School of Psychology at that time, invited me. We knew each other from Moscow State University (MSU) where she had taught. She knew that I wanted to teach, and in the summer of 2018, she invited me to conduct freshman seminars. I was finishing my PhD at MSU at the time, so this seemed like a logical continuation because postgraduate studies entail teaching practice.

What’s more, teaching is cool, interesting, and very rewarding. You are constantly developing, reading new literature, trying to come up with something interesting and getting a response. You see how people change and you help them develop. And I really enjoyed organising educational events. Before HSE University, I participated in various summer schools and once conducted a psychology workshop.

What do you teach?

When I first came, I didn’t have much experience yet and I taught subjects in which I was definitely competent: Introduction to Psychology and The History of Psychology. I also taught psychology as a general education subject—for economists, marketing majors, and media and communications students. Now I hold the title of senior lecturer. This year, I lecture and conduct seminars for a course I created called The Psychology of Autobiographical Memory. I am responsible for the gender psychology section of the minor in gender studies. These disciplines were selected according to my research interests. I’m not teaching students in other fields this year, but I have kept the History of Psychology course for myself because I like teaching it. Besides, it is useful because, if you are well versed in the history of psychology, it is easier to write articles. You understand from which approaches to draw information.

What was your first impression of HSE University?

Before I was invited to conduct seminars here, I had never been to HSE University and didn’t really know what to expect. I remember my first impression of the building on Armyanskaya Lane, that it was a modern building, that everything was simple, but designed intelligently with the people who would use it in mind. I already knew many of my colleagues because they had taught at MSU, so I was generally at ease. But I still had to go through a process of adaptation to the new system of laboratories in place of departments, and to the way both male and female students behaved.

HSE University has a clear and transparent way of handling organisational issues. If you have a problem, you can write to the study office and they will give you a clear answer of what you need to do. If you need to get a medical checkup, you can ask about that. They will help you and they won’t give you the runaround with excessive paperwork and long lines. I am very grateful to my alma mater and periodically visit my old supervisor and my old department. But I definitely see many advantages where I am now.

Photo from the subject’s personal archive

Tell us about the course you designed. Why are you interested in autobiographical memory?

It seems to me that knowledge about how people remember their own lives is incredibly valuable. First, if we know exactly how we do it, then we have more freedom to manage our memories, to change our attitudes towards traumatic events or situations of uncertainty. It is clear to me and to many researchers in this field that our past shapes our future. Studying how this happens seems to me a very promising area, especially because no one outside of Moscow is working on this.

In addition, a field called narrative practice has grown from the psychology of autobiographical memory and narrative psychology. I myself am a practicing psychologist and the combination of science and practice is very important to me.

What about gender studies?

They make it possible to look at different phenomena in a new way. For example, What is gender identity? What are gender stereotypes and how do they affect people? By re-examining these concepts, we come to important results in the context of developing social consciousness. And in different disciplines—sociology, psychology, and political science.

Photo from the subject’s personal archive

How developed is this topic in Russia?

Gender studies are part of social psychology courses in all psychology departments. This topic is studied at MSU, the European University in St. Petersburg, at Tomsk University, and in Perm. Many papers are written on gender issues. This is a standard branch of science because when we talk about gender differences, we are talking about what is more inherent in men or women, for example. This has always been interesting and everything was always compared. It’s just that gender studies combine this in a single profile and provide other analytical tools.

What are the results of this comparison, according to gender studies?

There are many stereotypes concerning men’s and women’s IQs. Just think of the endless jokes about blondes. Gender studies say that these differences are practically nonexistent. There are very few criteria where there are statistically significant differences between the general population of men and women. For example, women, on average, have slightly higher emotional intelligence, while men, on average, have slightly better developed spatial thinking, the ability to navigate terrain. If all employers were familiar with the results of this research and understood that men and women have the same abilities, we might not have the ‘glass ceiling’ phenomenon.

Does such research help determine the origins of these stereotypes?

Yes. They explore such a phenomenon as gender socialization—that is, the process of assimilation of the rules and norms prescribed by the gender role. Most often, these stereotypes arise under the influence of gender socialisation, whether male or female. Beyond that, we can make cross-cultural comparisons, evaluate the prevalence of stereotypes in different societies and see what causes them. There can be several causes: either family upbringing, school and other institutions, or the influence of the mass media.

Belief in strict gender roles (where a man is a strong and reliable breadwinner and a woman is a homemaker) is on average higher in Russia than, for example, in European countries. But it varies from city to city and from generation to generation. Such beliefs are less common in Moscow and St. Petersburg than in small towns and 20-30-year-olds hold such views less frequently than 60-70-year-olds.

Will you base your future research at HSE University?

I definitely want to work here for as long as I’m needed. This is a very important part of my life because I see a huge amount of meaning in my communication with students, the opportunity to teach, and in the development of my interests. I would like to finish my dissertation and make further plans, perhaps open my own laboratory and develop research groups.

Photo from the subject’s personal archive

What is your impression of HSE University students?

They always make me very happy. Each incoming class is very different and you see how interests and views change from year to year, but there are also basic things that remain unchanged. HSE University students are very active. In every discipline I have encountered, I have met people who really want to develop. They always have a craving for new knowledge.

They also apply a critical view to everything they are told. They ask questions. They ask how I know something and why things are the way they are. And this is very important, because it keeps the teacher in good form and the student develops a mindset where he doesn’t take anything for granted, but tries to analyse everything.

Why is it good to study psychology as a general education subject?

In general, it seems to me that any knowledge of the humanities is useful—not only psychology, but also political science, philosophy and sociology. All these disciplines teach you to think, but the advantage of psychology is that it helps you in other areas of life also. For example, you can learn to distinguish a good specialist from a charlatan and not be afraid to go to psychologists once you know what they should be like.

You are a practicing psychologist yourself. Does it help you in your teaching work?

It gives me more resistance to stress and more flexibility. When you are a practicing psychologist, you learn to listen to other people and be attentive to them. For example, I try to identify students who are afraid to give reports and speak in public, and I offer to help. This isn’t psychotherapy; I don’t mix the two, but I do understand that my practical skills give me more competencies in interacting with different people.

How would you characterise the typical HSE University person?

He or she is open to new experiences while applying very critical thought to any type of knowledge. He or she is also very adaptable and psychologically flexible and can solve complex problems quickly.

Is there anything you feel is missing at HSE University?

Sometimes there are not enough department-wide events—training sessions and events with students like the spring psychology school, as well as informal in-house events for teachers.

What do you wish HSE University for its 30th birthday?

Maintain everything that has already been accomplished and do everything possible to develop. Stay focused on building up Russian science and following global trends. And always examine yourself critically in order to improve.