Department of State grant to grow Russia relations

Delta State University continues to bolster exciting partnerships with international institutions, most recently, through a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Department of State.

The grant is through the U.S.-Russia Peer-to-Peer Dialogue Program and is titled “Rivers of Music — Rivers of Culture.” Delta State will use the opportunity to build on existing partnerships with Perm State University, located on the banks of the Kama River in Perm, Russia.

To help foster greater contacts between Americans and Russians, the State Department launched the program in 2013. Grants up to $100,000 are provided to support collaboration, meetings, virtual interactions, exchanges and internships between American and Russian organizations.

The program will utilize music as the universal language, allowing students to explore the cultures, histories and heritages of the two countries.

There are three components specific to the Rivers of Music — Rivers of Culture: 1) Mississippi Delta Immersion Experience, in which faculty and students from Perm State will travel to Delta State in October to participate in the International Conference on the Blues, as well as other Bridging the Blues events; 2) Telebridge Project-Music of Two Rivers, a series of webinars held in the spring semester held for both universities; and 3) Permski Krai Immersion Experience, in which faculty and students from Delta State will travel to Perm in June 2015 to participate in their festival season and provide a mini summer Delta Music Institute camp experience to Perm students.

Delta State President William N. LaForge first became affiliated with Perm State as a visiting professor in 2008. He returned in 2010 as a Fulbright Fellow and has continued to network with Perm colleagues since taking office at Delta State in 2013.

“This grant and the opportunities for our students and faculty are great examples of how we can foster excellent academic exchanges with foreign university partners,” said LaForge. “It will allow students at both universities — 7,000 miles apart — to participate in common theme programming.

“This is a wonderful program that supports our international exchange program goals.”

Additional goals of the partnership include: develop and launch a lifelong learning web-based education course using the music of the American South and the Perm region for replication and dissemination among American and Russian universities and communities; promote future exchanges between the two universities; and facilitate improved peer-to-peer understanding of the two cultures.

Robin Boyles, director of the Office of Institutional Grants at Delta State, also expressed the significance of this State Department grant.

“This grant allows us to move forward with our partnership with Perm State University,” said Boyles. “It will also provide opportunities for building cross-cultural awareness, knowledge and understanding of the music and cultural heritage of the Mississippi Delta, the American South and the Perm region in Russia.”

Leaders of Delta States’ unique entertainment industry program, the Delta Music Institute, will play a principal role in developing Rivers of Music — Rivers of Culture. Project coordinator Charly Abraham will help spearhead yet another distinctive DMI platform.

“DMI students get so many opportunities for personal growth, and this is yet another unique program,” said Abraham. “It’s not everyday students have the chance to work with students and faculty from Russia, and visa versa for the Russians in the program. We really look forward to our students interacting both here and in Russia.”

Delta State will continue to publish updates on program development. For more information on the DMI, visit Learn more about the U.S.-Russia Peer-to-Peer Dialogue Program at


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