Sister city program celebrates 20th anniversary

Tammy Tran

Lawrence hosted a series of events commemorating the Fox Cities-Kurgan, Russia Sister Cities Program’s 20th anniversary Nov. 4 and 5.
The festivities began with “Beet the Borscht,” a borscht taste test competition that took place Nov. 4.
“There was a team from Bon Appétit, a team from Fox Valley Technical College and then a team from the Russian department at Lawrence,” stated Chuck Lauter, former Lawrence University dean of students. “All the borscht was so good that nobody could figure out which was best.”
The competition was followed by a traditional Russian dinner and a small awards ceremony. To close the evening, the Wisconsin Russian Folk Orchestra performed in Stansbury Theatre.
A series of educational programs was held in the Warch Campus Center Nov. 5. The programs included a presentation by Lauter, his wife Estella and a panel of four individuals representing different occupational spheres in Kurgan.
According to Timothy Schmidt, coordinator of international student services and lecturer of the Waseda program, panelists “gave a talk about their particular areas in Kurgan and what the sisterhood with Appleton has meant to them going forward.”
Specifically, there were discussions on journalistic integrity, education, business development and the environment.
According to Brett Schilke, program coordinator of the Fox Cities Kurgan City Sister Program, members of the Lawrence community who did not attend the events can still learn more about the program.
Said Schilke, “One of our main goals is to get people engaged and involved. Something that would be important for Lawrence students to know is simply that this partnership is here. It isn’t something that should only be considered by Russian majors or people specifically interested in […] studying Russia. There are opportunities to expand partnerships into other areas and different interests.”
The mission of the Sister Cities Program is to work toward the creation of a safer world through improving economic, civic, educational and health opportunities in the Kurgan, Russia and Fox Cities regions. Specifically, the program has achieved improvements in educational opportunities, global security, economic development and cooperation between government and public services.
Kurgan was assigned as Appleton’s sister city in Aug. 1989. According to Schilke, “Lawrence University was involved from the very beginning.” During the first delegation in 1990, the sisterhood between Kurgan and Appleton was made official in the John G. Strange Common Room of Main Hall.
Lawrence’s contributions to the Fox Cities-Kurgan Sister Cities Program have continued throughout the last 20 years.
“In the summer of 1990,” explained Lauter, “two Lawrence graduates went off to Kurgan to teach English for the year. Over 80 people from Lawrence University and Kurgan State University have participated back and forth in both directions.”
Faculty exchanges between Lawrence and Kurgan State University have also taken place in the last 20 years. “Our Russian language assistant is from Kurgan this year,” Schmidt noted. “We receive professors from Kurgan who come to learn about American teaching methods, do research and provide lectures.”
Professors from Lawrence, including Lauter, have also taught at the Kurgan State University. “I taught in Kurgan in 2001 and 2006. Both times, I taught Freshmen Studies in Kurgan. It was very well received over there,” said Lauter.
Assistant Professor of Russian Studies Peter Thomas reflected on the program. He explained, “I would like Lawrentians to know that many people here in Appleton have spent years developing personal relationships with individuals and institutions in Kurgan, and many in Kurgan have done the same here in Appleton.”
Thomas continued, “They do so because they all believe that personal relationships, no matter how insignificant they may seem on the international stage, offer the strongest and most effective argument against the destructive and willful ignorance that plagues the political and economic relationships between our two countries.