Eighty students recently completed UCF’s first Russian STARTALK program focused on that nation’s language and cultural understanding for future business leaders traveling abroad.

The STARTALK mission is to increase the number of Americans learning and speaking critically needed foreign languages that are not widely taught in the United States. The intensive summer program was open to the commmunity and sponsored by The National Security Language Initiative and U.S. Department of Defense.

“The Russian language program at UCF is an important asset to the nation’s strategic language reserve and teaches one of the critical languages targeted in the National Security Language Initiative program,” said Alla Kourova, an assistant professor of Russian who received an $89,000 grant for the program. “In today’s global community, doing business with other cultures has become inevitable.”

The students were instructed by Kourova, Tatiana Norman and Natalia Reilly, and students from the Russian language course, Anna Ramires, Jake Cranmer, Rebecca Kaiser, Gabriela Wolk, Alex Wolstenholm and Amanda Ans. UCF students who participated in a U.S.-Russia Peer-to-Peer Dialogue Program earlier in the year also were invited to give presentations on topics relating to Russian culture and the history of Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russian names, and Russian Orthodoxy.

Students met three weeks for classroom instructions, extra-curricular activities and field trips. Each day lunches were prepared by the Russian café Lacomka in Winter Park, which gave the students a taste of Russia.

On the program’s graduation day, José Fernandez, dean of the College of Arts & Humanities, congratulated the students and presented each with the certificates and a Russian souvenir. Kourova said she plans to host the program again for the community next summer.