Anna Glett displays the certificate she received for her prize-winning essay.

Anna Glett displays the certificate she received for her prize-winning essay.

BGSU student brings home prize in Russian essay contest

For junior Anna Glett from Bellefontaine, a summer job as a camp counselor for newly emigrated Russian students set off a chain of events that has led to some surprising results.

Working with the Russian children inspired her to take a Russian language class at BGSU. Now, after only four semesters of the language, Glett has won first place in the seventh annual National Post-Secondary Russian Essay Contest sponsored by the American Council of Teachers of Russian (ACTR).

“I received a certificate and the satisfaction of a job well done,” she said cheerily.

Competing in the level-two, non-heritage learners division, Glett shared first place with participants from Kenyon College and Yale University, besting others who came from the likes of Columbia and Northwestern universities and Amherst College, among others.

“Anna is the first BGSU student to win such an award,” said her teacher, Dr. Irina Stakhanova, adding that the win is more evidence that BGSU students can hold their own against those from elite schools.

Participants in the contest did not know the topic beforehand and were not allowed to take any materials into the one-hour writing session. “None of us expected to win,” Glett said. “We have much less classroom time than other schools with Russian language programs.”

The topic turned out to be “What Is Your Dream?” or “Kakaia u vas mechta? O chem vy mechtaete?" Glett said. She wrote of her desire to work as an economist, “but not in a bank or a Fortune 500 company,” she explained. Rather, she hopes to use economics “to help people make better decisions and lead better lives. I’m still figuring out where and how to do that.”

In trying to explain how she did so well on the essay after only four semesters of Russian, the Honors Program student said, “I really enjoyed the class, and when I enjoy something I tend to study more. I also have a strong memory, which has helped.”

Glett, an economics major with a math concentration, has volunteered since high school at the camp near Columbus, which helps children ages generally 6-14 adjust to life in the United States. When she needed a class to satisfy an Honors Program requirement, she decided to take Russian 101, and “I was hooked,” she says.

Stakhanova’s introductory class encompassed reading, writing and grammar. “The first couple of weeks we spent learning the Cyrillic alphabet and Russian pronunciation. It’s difficult to learn to produce the sounds; there are subtle differences,” Glett said.

Glett also had the benefit of a top instructor who encourages students to take advantage of opportunities to expand their language skills and cultural knowledge. Stakhanova was named BGSU’s 2002 Master Teacher in recognition of her teaching excellence and dedication to her students. In addition to teaching Russian in the German, Russian and East Asian languages department, she is undergraduate advisor to and director of the study-abroad program in St. Petersburg.

That first Russian class was somewhat of a turning point for Glett, who says, “I did not come into college planning to study a foreign language.” She is now minoring in Russian and recently left for a five-week, study-abroad semester in St. Petersburg. She and nine other students are living with host families and taking Russian language classes. When she returns, she will again volunteer at the camp. “I can surprise the kids with my new knowledge,” she said.

The contest was created by the ACTR in cooperation with the American Council for Collaboration in Education and Language Studyto promote the study of Russian in the United States. This year, 650 essays were submitted from 52 universities and colleges. Each essay was ranked by three judges in Russia. More than 100 students from 40 institutions won gold, silver or bronze awards or honorable mention certificates.

July 3, 2006