The U.S.-Russia Peer-to-Peer Dialogue Program “Rivers of Music — Rivers of Culture” continues to make progress between Delta State University and Perm State University in Perm, Russia.
Thanks to a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Department of State in 2014, the two universities are collaborating on projects, hosting virtual classrooms, and providing exchanges and internships at both institutions.
On March 4, instructors and students from Delta State’s Delta Music Institute conducted another telebridge video webinar class with Russian students and teachers involved in the program.
Utilizing music as the universal language, both groups are part of the long-term project focusing on exploring the cultures, histories and heritages of the two countries.
Svetlana Polyakova and Elena Gritsenko are leading the program at Perm State and helped arrange the most recent webinar session. Through the grant, the duo brought a group of Russian students and instructors to Delta State in October of 2014 to attend the university’s inaugural International Conference on the Blues.
During the conference, Polyakova and Gritsenko discussed how blues music is being used to raise cross-cultural awareness between the American and Russians students enrolled in the course.
“Our students have learned a lot about the grassroots, U.S. heritage and the real life in the USA,” said Polyakova. “The learning is not coming from the glamorous Hollywood blockbusters or politically distorting media flow — it’s coming from real exchanges. This is what makes our project so unique, by developing true and open relationships.”
This spring, a group of DMI students, and Delta State faculty and staff will visit Perm State to partake in a similar exchange — The Permski Krai Immersion Experience. Beginning in May, the group will travel to Perm during its festival season. The DMI students and faculty will also lead a mini DMI summer camp experience for Perm students.
DMI instructor and group project coordinator Charly Abraham is excited to expose his students to these unique opportunities.
“The virtual classes have been really fun, but also challenging,” said Abraham. “Only getting an hour a month of real-time face-to-face visits probably isn’t enough. I’m hoping we can squeeze in an extra session before the semester is over.
“DMI students get so many opportunities for personal growth, and this is yet another unique program,” he added. “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.”
DMI student Katie Locke is anxious to reunite with the Russian students she connected with so well during their visit to the Delta last year.
“I am looking forward to seeing my Russian friends again the most,” said Locke. “Through my growing relationship with them, I have learned the importance of understanding the differences in our cultures. As a result of this program, I now have a greater appreciation for their background and have even learned much about Mississippi and American culture.”
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.”
Yet another exciting aspect of the project is the opening of GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi, slated to open on Delta State’s campus this fall. The facility, only the second GRAMMY® museum in the world, will be over 20,000 square feet showcasing Mississippi’s influence in American music through interactive exhibits. The facility will provide even more unique exchange learning programs through partnerships with the DMI.
“We really wanted to study blues music in anticipation of the GRAMMY® museum at Delta State,” said Polyakova. “Our students involved in the project are fascinated with the origins of the blues, and the cultural, historical and social background of the Mississippi Delta region.”
Delta State will continue to publish updates on program development. For more information on the DMI, visit www.deltastate.edu/dmi. Learn more about the U.S.-Russia Peer-to-Peer Dialogue Program at http://moscow.usembassy.gov/us-russiadialogue.html.