Undergraduate Alumni

Whitney May

After graduating from college, I spent ten months working at a women’s center in Pskov, Russia. It was a fantastic experience and I have been back several times to visit friends there. Following those ten months, I spent two years at Oxford University pursuing a master’s degree in comparative government.  My dissertation relied heavily on data from the platforms of Russian political parties so I had the opportunity to put my Russian to good use again.  Following the master’s program I went to law school at Harvard University and now work as a lawyer at a firm in London.  The law firm I work for has a Moscow office and I have had the opportunity to work with lawyers from that office on a couple of deals.

Sean Jackowitz

Sean Jackowitz graduated from Yale University in 2008 with a B.A. in Russian and East European Studies.  After graduating, Sean spent a year at Kazakh National University in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on a Fulbright research grant, studying post-Soviet politics.  He is now enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and expects to graduate with a J.D. in 2012.  Sean continues to study Russian and never misses a chance to travel through the former Soviet Union.

Elizabeth Bospflug

I began Russian as a sophomore, and soon learning the language led to courses in literature, politics, and especially history.  Throughout my Russian studies with Yale – in New Haven and St. Petersburg – Costya, Julia, and Irina elucidated not only Russian grammar but also provided the tools to understand the Russian past and present.  What began as interest and curiosity gradually turned into a passion and a profession, as I am now a PhD student in Russian and Soviet History here at Yale. 

Anna Graber

As a PhD student in Yale’s history department studying Russian history, I would be entirely unable to do my work if it were not for the excellent language training I received as an undergraduate from Yale’s Russian instructors.  The value of Yale’s Russian program became apparent to me almost immediately after graduation, when I moved to St. Petersburg on a Fulbright grant for ten months to conduct research and to enroll in history seminars at a Russian graduate school.  In each of these situations I was confronted with a range of vocabulary and expressions I was unfamiliar with, but the thorough grounding in Russian grammar I had received at Yale helped me to master modern academic and even 18th-century Russian.  Just as important, the Russian program prepared me for life in Russia.  Once in the country, I was immensely thankful for the lessons in Russian pop culture, cultural history, current events, and daily life that the program provided.  Russia can be a difficult place to live, but I could face life confidently with the high level of conversational Russian I brought from Yale and with the insights into Russian culture provided by my Russian instructors.  Now back in New Haven, I use Russian almost daily to read primary materials and scholarly articles and monographs for my dissertation research.

Chelsea Purvis

I graduated from Yale in 2006.  I began studying Russian during the Yale Summer Program in Saint Petersburg.  After college, I studied at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, receiving my Master’s in 2008. I recently graduated from Yale Law School.  In 2011-12, I will work as a legal fellow at Interights, the International Centre for the Legal Protection of Human Rights, in London.

Ian Convey

Yale University Class of 2011 (BA, MA)

College of Law Class of 2013 (LLB)

Studying Russian at Yale was undoubtedly the most important, most rewarding and best academic decision of my time at the university. The small size of the department, combined with the unparalleled passion and dedication of the faculty, means that there is great flexibility in your language study, especially at higher levels. My history senior thesis, focusing on Stalinist cultural policy in the 1930s, benefited greatly from my Russian professor’s close focusing upon issues of history, politics, society and historiography during one-on-one tutorials, enabling me to build an incredibly deep, focused vocabulary in the areas I needed. And my work in the anthropology department, as a research assistant to a professor working on a book pertaining to Russia’s oil industry, was also greatly enhanced by the department’s commitment to tailoring each student’s experiences of the language. This has ultimately helped inform my choice of career: I will be working as a lawyer, specializing in the energy and natural resources sectors, for a multinational law firm headquartered in London, but with an office in Moscow where I will also be working. Russian, therefore, has for me proven a greatly practical language, with profound positive consequences for my academic and professional careers. However, perhaps Russian’s greatest features are its elegance (linguistics majors- there’s not a better-constructed language out there), its beauty, and the absolutely incredible culture that it opens up for its students. Russian literature and theater are amongst the most beautiful, provocative and important in the world, and the opportunity to engage with them in their original formats is a hugely enriching experience, and one that I would advocate anyone with even the smallest interest in the language to pursue.