NMU’s International Ed. Week brings talk on American, Russian relations


Jackie Jahfetson

From the city of Tomsk to Marquette, American and Russian students will gather around a virtual roundtable for the first-ever debate over the past presidential election with an international discussion.

The International Russian-American Web Conference is tentatively scheduled for 9 p.m. on Thursday Dec. 7 and will take place in Jamrich Hall, room 1315. In the discussion, six student speakers from both nations will present their research on Russia’s interference with the 2016 U.S. general election, their mutual perception of the United States and Russia under Trump’s presidency, and American-Russian relations. Questions and comments will be accepted from participating audience members and there will be an evaluation along with some advice given from NMU and Tomsk State University professors.

One of the moderators of the event will be Alexey Viryasov, who is an international relations major and a Russian exchange student. Viryasov spent the past year organizing and anticipating for this shared discussion to take place. He said with media propaganda forming stereotypes and misperceptions in both countries, it makes it difficult to form relationships with opposing sides.

“It will be very thoughtful to look at this from a different perspective,” Viryasov said. “At the end of the day, we are just normal people. We can see each other, talk and become friends.”
This collaboration between NMU and Tomsk State University could be the start of something new, he added.

“I believe this can really make a difference and build bridges,” Viryasov said. “I hope American students will want to come to Russia and see it with their own eyes.”

Another contributor to the international web-conference is Hanna Kassab, an assistant professor of political science at NMU. Kassab sees this event as a “real-life conversation” with people from different nationalities offering differing views on important issues. When universities come together, students feel more empowered to engage in discussions, he said.

Kassab added, with the heavy exposure on Russian and American relations, this event is not only relevant, but vital to national security for both countries.

“[These issues] are changing the way we view the world, other people and ourselves,” he said. “I hope all can appreciate they share this planet with other people.”

Kassab said the international conference offers a first-hand experience to help people better understand and connect with others from different worlds.

“It’s real life, not just abstract,” he said. “I’m hoping the exchange will bring forth a number of perspectives that maybe we’ve been ignoring.”

The web conference discussion comes as a part of NMU’s International Education Week.