HSE Keeps International Faculty on Their Toes in Friendly and Competitive Environment
Carol S. Leonard, one of the lecturers within the Master's Programme "Governance of Science, Technology and Innovation", has been at the HSE since 2011. She talked to HSE News Service about the things she likes about her job, the cultured and energetic environment at HSE, and about the changes she sees across Russia since her undergraduate days when she first became interested in the country, its language and people.
— You've been with HSE since 2011. What are the changes at the university within this period that you would recognise as positive and dynamic?
— How did your cooperation with the HSE start? How is your working life arranged today?
— I was invited to begin with for a year to assist with a project initiated by the Research Foundation to assess research that had received government support. That project gave me the opportunity to work closely with administrative officials and faculty in my field, and I enjoyed the experience tremendously. I am indebted to Vice Rectors Lev Jakobson and Maria Yudkevich, who gave me this opportunity, and Leonid Gokhberg, with whom I have worked closely in years since. At present I work on an HSE contract as a professor and researcher in the Department of Public Administration in a kafedra where students focus on Regional Studies: we offer courses, supervise student theses, develop projects for the students, and we assist undergraduates in applying for their Master’s degrees. In my research, I am able to connect my colleagues to researchers abroad, who are, in turn, eager to work with Russian scholars. In my teaching, I am fortunate in my teaching for the Master’s programme, "Governance of Science, Technology and Innovation," where I provide assistance in the area of Regional Innovation. My experience in these master’s programmes is as exciting as in the undergraduate classes. The students from a range of countries have generally mastered English, they are keenly interested in a wide variety of topics and actively participate in classroom discussions. I owe enormous thanks to my colleagues at ISSEK, where I have also assisted in their production of the first-rate journal, Foresight.
— You speak 7 foreign languages and Russian is among them. It definitely helps to live and work in Moscow. What is challenging and what is rewarding for you as an international expert in Russia?
— Developing expertise on Russia has been a lifelong challenge, first of all, learning the language, which I started at the University of Minnesota. I have not yet fully acquired a top standard in writing and speaking, but I am still aspiring for mastery of Russian, "великий, могучий, правдивый и свободный русский язык," (the great, powerful, truthful and free Russian language) as the writer Ivan Turgenev described it.
— One of your research interests is about governance and regional resilience in Russia. How have you been developing and maintaining this interest recently?
— I work a great deal on this topic. It is exciting that so many government agencies, along with academic institutes and departments, are engaged in the subject of Russia's regional expansion and development. In my teaching, I contribute a comparative perspective, from my work on European, Russian and US regional issues; in research, I and my co-authors, including Elena Vakulenko, an HSE econometrician and Zafar Nazarov from Indiana-Purdue at Fort Wayne, show the extent to which regional growth benefits from sub-national institutions. For the period 2000-2008, persistent traditions of good governance account for a substantial portion of growth, despite considerable centralization; some centralization was essential for improved governance and uniformity of law across the county. But the quality of subnational institutions still mattered in the pace of advancement. We are publishing an article on that topic in The Economics of Transition in 2016.
— Some of your research reports are on well-being in Russia. What can you tell us about this issue in 2016?
— The period we study, through 2008, was one of rapid advancement of the Russian economy. The pace was such that even now, with some economic turmoil, there is still far greater confidence than there was in the 1990s. Russians, it seems to me, still expect consistency and progress, and that confidence is a great source of stability. It is also reflected in the steady restoration and new building in the capital. Moscow is one of the most glamorous and exciting cities today in Europe : for visitors, especially around New Year’s and Russian Christmas, the city blazes with sparkling rings of light on buildings, in squares, all along the interior ring road. The city government has vigorously engaged with key problems: parking, traffic, and public transportation. New developments, including numerous parking spots, parking fines, pedestrian only streets, bicycle promotion and instructive signs are very impressive.
— What would you say to potential international students who are considering coming to HSE to study?
— This is a great time to be in Moscow for students, as I am told by international students at HSE and at RANEPA, who take photos of central Moscow, skating, dining out; some have traveled North and take pictures of themselves fishing. For those interested in museum culture, Russia is and has always been a city with enormous investment in its past, including writers' home museums, the Pushkin and Tretyakov galleries. In icy weather, there is not a day when the line does not stretch out in front of the new Tretyakov gallery for entry into the spectacular Serov exhibit. Foreign students will find, as I have, a collegial and warm welcome at HSE, where the students are required to know other languages, including English. The Master’s-level student body is very international. Nina Belyaeva's programme in Public Policy (and the rival programme under Robin Lewis at RANEPA) have attracted Russian and foreign students. These programmes warmly welcome students from all countries, and give them excellent training for public policy.
— Could you please recommend a few ( or at least, one) book on Russia which might help the international community to understand the country better?
— It is a problem that the study of Russian abroad has declined, since the experts are fewer, they do not travel as much as before to Russia, and they can misperceive events, based on too little information, and they tend to draw hasty conclusions about long-term trends . I read BNE for good economic articles, and I note that the editor, Ben Aris, who has lived in Russia and still does, is my preferred source of news in English. In my view, some misunderstandings in the non-Russian press about Russia go very far back, drawing deeply on past perspectives. This is a mistake. There is now and will be more evidence of new generations emerging. There is the Russian millennial, who is very similar to US millennial in concerns about social welfare, and who was educated entirely in the post-Soviet era. This generation embraces the students I teach at HSE. Also the Russian press should be more closely consulted. It is always very interesting in its presentation of long analytic essays; the western press does not often reflect the substance and intellectual dialogue demonstrated in these essays.
Anna Chernyakhovskaya, specially for HSE News Service