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Regular version of the site

To Enjoy Academic Freedom at the HSE

Dr. Dina Balalaeva, who will begin a tenure-track position at the Faculty of Social Sciences at the HSE in September, recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the HSE. She received her PhD in Political Science at the State University of New York at Binghamton in 2013. She agreed to speak with the HSE news service about her decision to make her career at the HSE and her plans for future research and teaching.

— Your academic career is closely connected with the HSE. Why have you chosen to accept a permanent position at the university?

— I made up my mind that I wanted to work at the HSE a year ago when I accepted the offer for a postdoctoral fellowship in Political Science. I really enjoyed this academic year. I am passionate about what I do, I relish my research, I like teaching and that is what’s driving my work. I met wonderful people, successfully attended important conferences, completed several papers, and started new exciting projects. I've got one preprint published on the HSE website and two pieces are under review. I also had a very pleasant experience teaching. I take teaching seriously: every time you teach, you learn. This year I will teach three courses that I am excited about — two research seminars and Comparative Politics.

This year confirmed or even exceeded my expectations that the HSE is a prominent university with the highest international standards of research and teaching. The HSE provides a lot of opportunities for conducting high-quality research, maintain connections with the international scientific community and develop an individual approach towards teaching. And I think that, more generally, professors here enjoy much academic freedom, which is an important prerequisite for any successful research. Also, a lot of Political Science and Economics professors share my research interests, which is encouraging and promising in terms of joint work.  So accepting a tenure-track position was an easy decision for me.

— Did you enjoy working with students?

— I really enjoyed it. I was impressed by the level of knowledge of my students, especially in math related disciplines, for example, econometrics and game theory. In general, students are really motivated here. What I noticed, though — and this is unfortunately an international academic trend — is that students are losing factual knowledge. They know theoretical concepts and how to test them, but they forget about facts. It is important to remember that in order to invent your own theory you have to know what is actually going on in politics. I hope to fill this gap with my own teaching.

 The HSE has a very special, welcoming atmosphere. Not only are my colleagues intelligent and smart, but they are also open-minded, easy-going and nice people who are always willing to help.

Dina Balalaeva 
Research Fellow of Laboratory For Political Research

— What are your goals now?

— As for most of us, my primary goal for the next three years is to publish in top international journals. Next year, I am planning to work on several interdisciplinary projects with my Russian and international colleagues from the Political Science and other departments. I am also working on several individual papers that will hopefully be sent out to journals soon.

— You have had the opportunity to compare several universities from the inside. What is attractive at the HSE, and what would you change to make teachers and students feel more comfortable?

The HSE has a very special, welcoming atmosphere. Not only are my colleagues intelligent and smart, but they are also open-minded, easy-going and nice people who are always willing to help. I think it would be nice, though, if the HSE were to hold more interdisciplinary events where professors and maybe even postgraduate students could hang out and discuss their research interests and teaching techniques, for example.

— What advice would you give to new international faculty members joining the HSE?

I would suggest that new faculty should not be afraid to talk to their Russian colleagues about whatever issues they have instead of wondering silently or asking Google. Russians are open, they don’t mind explaining cultural differences and giving advice on how to survive in Russia.

— HSE is part of the international research community. How do you use it?

— The HSE has agreements with highly prestigious universities all around the world, sends its professors and students abroad and hires many international professors. This makes it a truly international place to work and study. Largely, this is possible due to the high quality of research at the HSE that lives up to international standards. HSE faculty members as well as students enjoy plenty of opportunities to attend international conferences, take part in foreign research projects, and take courses at different universities abroad. In addition, most internationally hired faculty retain their connections with colleagues from their previous jobs. For instance, I am working now on several papers with my co-authors from Binghamton University where I obtained my Ph.D., a practice that I plan to continue in the future.

Anna Nechkina

See also:

Master's Programme 'Politics. Economics. Philosophy': Perfect Combination of Three Disciplines

Modelled on classical British programmes, the HSE Master's Programme 'Politics. Economics. Philosophy' (PEP) helps students delve deeper into economics and political science, broaden their philosophical outlook, develop their critical thinking skills, and enhance their social and academic capital. HSE News Services spoke with current first-year student Tamás Barnák and programme alumnus Franz Walternberger about why they chose PEP and what it is like to study at HSE University.

'State Owes Me': Social Justice, as Seen by Russian University Undergraduates

'I am the state' ('L'etat c'est moi') is a phrase attributed to French king Louis XIV. For Russian undergraduates today, the motto seems to be 'the state owes me'. According to many of them, the government must support younger people above all else, and this is what they understand by social justice. Read on to learn what else Russian undergraduates think about justice and why they are not willing to make sacrifices to achieve it, based on a paper by HSE political scientists Valeria Kasamara, Marina Maximenkova and Anna Sorokina.

Student Internship Programme at the

In April 2020, the Institute for Applied Political Studies (IAPS) launched an internship programme. Programme interns work together with Institute staff on joint projects, as well as acquire new research and communication skills. 40 students are currently participating in the programme

American Political Scientist Thomas Graham Speaks at HSE

On January 22, Thomas Graham, former Special Assistant to the President of the United States on Russian and Eurasian affairs (2004-2007), spoke to faculty and students of the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs about the fundamentally competitive nature of US-Russia relations and prospects for cooperation between the two countries.

How Moral Obligation Drives Protest

Researchers have long studied the motives that inspire people to join in collective action. Three factors have received particular attention: anger caused by apparent social injustice; belief in the efficacy of collective action; and politicised identity. New studies have recently prompted a team of scholars, including a HSE researcher, to incorporate two additional factors into the existing model: ideology and moral obligation.

Democracy Isn’t for Everyone: Russians Adopt Western Values but See Them in Their Own Way

Europe wants to live in a democracy. This is especially true for residents of countries of Northern Europe, but less so for those of former socialist countries, especially Russia. While almost everyone has a positive attitude towards democracy, people have different understandings of it. Alla Salmina studied the relationship between attitudes and understandings of it using the data of 28 countries that participated in the European Social Survey (ESS). 

Socialism on the Steppe: How Soviet Specialists Changed Life in Mongolia

‘We tried to give them a bright future.’ These are the words of engineers, construction workers, geologists, doctors and other specialists from the former Soviet republic regarding the years they spent in Mongolia. Those Soviet-era specialists are still united by the memory of trying to build something on such a grand scale and then seeing the whole project collapse. More than 100 members of that community agreed to be interviewed in-depth by political scientist Alexei Mikhalev. Here, he shares information from their collective memory with IQ.HSE.

State Capacity: How It Is Measured and Compared

‘State capacity’ refers to a state’s ability to make and effectively implement decisions in domestic and foreign policy. In a study, HSE University political scientists evaluated the state capacity of 142 countries. Based on their findings, the researchers created and trialed a state capacity index, identified eight models of state capacity, and compiled a general international ranking.

‘Public Administration Is Impossible Outside of Real Politics’

In September 2019, the School of Political Science and the School of Public Administration at the Faculty of Social Sciences will merge into the School of Politics and Governance. The opening of the newly unified school will bring big changes to the structure and contents of educational programmes.

‘Consolidation Will Create New Opportunities for Research and Education’

Andrei Melville, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, spoke with the HSE News Service about the merger of two schools and the outlook for political science at HSE University.