After 15 years of serving UAA, the American Russian Center is slated to close its doors this December.
ARC was started in 1993, the result of a federal grant created to befriend Russia and in essence acknowledge the end of the Cold War by promoting elements of democracy in an otherwise communist country.
“Basically, the US had these grants and part of it was to democratize Russia,” ARC International Programs Coordinator Ella Pearson said. “[It was supposed] to bring free enterprise over there – because everything was state-run in Russia back then – and ARC is the result of that.”
In cooperation with the Far Eastern State Transport University, ARC set up an exchange program called “2 Plus 2”. The program was designed to give Russian business students the opportunity to study in Alaska; they spend two years at their respective universities studying English and then two years at UAA studying business.
This semester there are two students from Vladivostok and 24 from Khabarovsk enrolled at UAA.
The grants issued by the federal government did not only apply to university programs like ARC, but also to small businesses and entrepreneurs hoping to get a start.
According to Pearson, news came down the chain that ARC will no longer be solely Russian-related, but rather international.
“We haven’t gotten any direct info on this except that we’re gone,” Pearson said.
According to ARC Director Russell Howell, the grant money has dried up and ARC must close its doors.
Howell said it would be an unwise decision on the university’s part to allow ARC to discontinue. Not only is the US far behind the rest of the world on how it prioritizes international education, Howell said, but Alaska itself is even further behind than the rest of the country.
For its geographical location, Howell said the number of international students enrolled at UAA each year is dismally low. There are only approximately 100 international students enrolled this year.
“We are graduating people that have no idea how the rest of the world works,” Howell said. “We are facing a [globalization] tsunami that’s coming towards the US, and we are totally unprepared for it.”
UAA business management major, Tyler Johnson, said he agreed with Howell on the importance of international education at universities.
“The state’s location, relative to the rest of the world and other emerging economies is pretty important,” Johnson said.
Johnson said that UAA students could learn a lot from international business students who have come to here to study.
“I think they bring different ideas into the business world and different perspectives on how business is conducted globally,” Johnson said.
To date, although it has not yet been made official, ARC is slated to turn into an international center.
The current director of International Affairs UAA, Dr. Ted Kassier, will head it.
“ARC was funded by federal earmarks that haven’t been renewed,” Kassier said. “And we’re trying to figure out how to pull” all of this together.
“All we can say is that the students of ARC will continue to be taken care of,” Kassier said. “It’s a responsibility of the university.”