How 15 students from ASU's Russian department earned nearly 30 prestigious awards in 1 academic year

May 18, 2023

This academic year, 15 students from Arizona State University's School of International Letters and Cultures Russian department have received nearly 30 awards, ranging from ASU research scholarships to Department of State internships and Pickering Fellowships. 

"These achievements demonstrate that our students possess not only linguistic skills but also cultural knowledge that can be applied in various fields," explained Hilde Hoogenboom, associate professor of Russian. "We're proud to see them being recognized on both national and university levels." Portrait photos of four students pasted together. Students (from left) Isabelle Kinney, Jarrod Rodriguez, Collin Frank and Thomas Pozsonyi were among the 15 award winners. Download Full Image

Hoogenboom believes that, in addition to students' own hard work and ambitious nature, it is the dedicated faculty who have helped their students achieve such success. Faculty in the Russian department not only encourage their students to apply for competitive scholarships, they provide crucial support to them throughout the application process, including encouragement and guidance to put the necessary time into writing good grant proposals and essays. 

Last year, Hoogenboom worked with student Kristina McCarthy on writing an essay about growing up as a Mexican American.

“She hadn’t realized that this mattered to Fulbright selection committees, who want candidates that represent American diversity," Hoogenboom said. With this essay, McCarthy won a Fulbright Scholarship to Kazakhstan.

When students do not win, faculty encourage them to reapply. Cassidy Durland was waitlisted last year for the Department of State’s Critical Languages Scholarship, but applied again and was selected this year thanks to Senior Lecturer of Russian Saule Moldabekova Robb’s encouragement.

“I’d encourage everyone to get to know their professors and share your goals with them. Your professors want to help you — let them,” said Collin Frank, who received a Thomas R. Pickering Fellowship, a highly competitive award offered to only 45 exceptional students across the U.S. Frank attributes his success to hard work, planning ahead and the guidance of several supportive professors.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without the patience and guidance of several amazing professors at ASU," Frank said. 

Russian language student Jarrod Rodriguez, who served three years of active duty as member of the Army Reserve, recently completed an internship with the U.S. Department of State. He was inspired to apply after transporting humanitarian aid supplies in Ukraine — an opportunity made possible by Hoogenboom and her network of alumni. The experience prompted him to find a path in which his Russian degree would be crucial, and he kept coming back to the idea of interning at the State Department.

The faculty in the Russian department, especially Moldabekova Robb, have worked to create a network among their students so that those who have previously been selected for awards, internships, scholarships and other opportunities can provide insight and advice to those who are currently applying. Not only are the students “inspired by the success of their classroom peers,”  Hoogenboom said, they are able to get tips from someone who has been through the application process. 

When asked why there was such an increase in government attention and awards to students of Russian and Eastern European studies this year, Hoogenboom said: “Russia’s war in Ukraine has dramatically increased the need for Russian speakers for the agencies in Washington, D.C.”

In addition to these Russian language students who have won a multitude of awards, the Melikian Center received new Title VI National Resource Center and Foreign Language and Area Studies funding, totaling $2.4 million. Hoogenboom hopes to build on these students' successes by applying for a Defense Department Russian Language Flagship grant for $1.2 million to support opportunities for our students to improve their Russian through additional tutoring and scholarships.

Russian students and their awards:

  1. Charlotte Benchoff: Foreign Language and Area Studies Award, summer 2023.

  2. Chandler Camarena: Foreign Language and Area Studies Award, spring 2023, summer 2023, academic year 2023–24; Critical Language Scholarship.

  3. Cassidy Durland: FLAS Award, spring 2023 and summer 2023; Department of State Critical Languages Scholarship.

  4. Collin Frank: Colin Powell Leadership Fellowship; Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Graduate Fellowship; Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship; U.S. Department of State student internship; Title VIII funding from ASU’s Critical Language Institute.

  5. Isaiah Jacobs: FLAS Award, summer 2023.

  6. Anthony Kerker: FLAS Award, summer 2023.

  7. Isabelle Kinney: Dean’s Medalist; U.S. Department of State student internship. 

  8. Braedon Lincoln: FBI summer internship. 

  9. Jeremy Parker: FLAS Award, summer 2023. 

  10. Thomas Pozsonyi: Dean’s Medalist. 

  11. Jarrod Rodriguez: U.S. Department of State student internship. 

  12. Christian Shousha: National Post-Secondary Russian Education contest; Fulbright ETA; Title VII funding.

  13. Jessica Sims: Boren/NSEP grant to study Russian; Title VIII funding; U.S. Department of State student internship. 

  14. Eric Wagner: National Post-Secondary Russian Essay Contest; Post-Secondary Russian Scholar Laureate. 

  15. Katya Wolf: National Post-Secondary Russian Essay Contest.

Communications specialist, School of International Letters and Cultures

Nationally respected social policy analyst retires from faculty after 28 years at ASU

Elizabeth Segal honored by the School of Social Work for research in interpersonal, social empathy

May 18, 2023

A nationally respected social policy analyst whose textbooks have guided thousands of social workers, Professor Elizabeth Segal of the School of Social Work retired this month after 37 years in academia, the last 28 at Arizona State University.

Widely known in social policy circles, as well as for her insights into social and interpersonal empathy, Segal taught social welfare policy, research methods, critical theory, community practice and proposal writing. She also at one time coordinated the master’s and doctoral degree programs at the School of Social Work and served as its interim director. Headshot of Elizabeth Segal Social work Professor Elizabeth Segal retired in May 2023 after 28 years at ASU. Download Full Image

“I have been so fortunate to have wonderful colleagues throughout my 28 years at ASU. Just as I have stayed in touch with many folks after their retirement, I intend to do the same,” Segal said. “Being a good colleague is also being a good friend, and that connection transcends being in the office together. I look forward to sharing many more new experiences with my wonderful colleagues.”

Segal had a wide variety of academic, research and administrative assignments. She served as associate dean of the College of Public Programs, the former name of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, from 2005 to 2006.

Segal spent six years, from 1989 to 1995, at the College of Social Work at Ohio State University as assistant professor and associate professor, before coming to ASU in 1995. She also was an assistant professor of social work at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign from 1986 to 1988.

Segal spent 1988–89 in Washington, D.C., as a congressional research fellow in the office of U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and the Illinois Commission on Intergovernmental Cooperation.

Her well-known work in social empathy has focused on “how greater empathic insight can lead to the creation of more effective social welfare policies and programs,” according to her biography. The author of 12 books and numerous book chapters and peer-reviewed articles on social welfare issues, her books’ recent emphasis has been on interpersonal and social empathy.

Segal has also written monthly online columns on empathy for Psychology Today magazine.

School of Social Work Director and Professor Elizabeth Lightfoot said thousands of social workers have learned about social policy from Segal’s bestselling texts.

‘A master lesson in civility and integrity’

Lightfoot, a former University of Minnesota professor who has been director of the school since July 2021, said that when she was first thinking of coming to Arizona, every person at ASU she spoke with said Segal was an important mentor to them “and that she was the most important person at the School of Social Work.”

Lightfoot said that at first, she wasn’t quite sure what to make of hearing that from so many people at the school.

“It actually kind of intimidated me as no one said that about anyone else, but I realized soon after I got here that they were right,” Lightfoot said. “I so appreciate everything about Liz: her incredible brilliance, her humility, her willingness to go the extra mile, her humor, her extreme generosity, and for me personally, I love her policy wisdom.”

Just watching Segal interact with her ASU colleagues “has been a master lesson in civility and integrity,” Lightfoot said. “I want to say from the bottom of my heart how valuable she is to all of us here at ASU and how much we will miss her.”

Read on to learn more about Segal’s time at ASU and her post-retirement plans.

Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Question: You are known for your work in empathy, and among your writings on the subject was a column that appeared each month in Psychology Today online. What is stopping many people from finding within themselves what they need to feel and act with more empathy?

Answer: I distinguish in my work between interpersonal empathy and social empathy. Both require a subset of skills that include abilities to take the perspectives of others with awareness that those feelings belong to the other person and not confuse them with our own feelings. We do that best when we keep ourselves balanced through the skills of emotion regulation. For social empathy, we add skills in understanding the social, economic, political and environmental contexts within which others live, including the historical context. 

Social work students typically excel in interpersonal empathy by the time they graduate. They can share feelings and experiences with other individuals and use that sharing to understand what the experiences mean. Applying that on a larger scale and across different groups requires social empathy. That ability is more challenging because it often requires "walking in the shoes of others" who are very different from you. Thankfully, social work students, through their field practice and supporting classwork, are trained to share the experiences of groups who are different than them.

However, for the general public, that is all too often not the case. I believe it is the lack of sharing and understanding of feelings and experiences of others who are different that holds people back from growing their empathic abilities. And the older we get, the less likely we are to immerse ourselves in new and different experiences.

Empathy requires lifelong learning. We have the foundational tools to be empathic in an unconscious format, but we need the conscious awareness and training to learn to act empathically. The good news is that being an empathic person gets easier the more you practice and use it.

Q: Your texts have guided thousands of social workers, particularly regarding policy. What will social workers of the future need to know to be effective, to accomplish as much as they can in the lives of those they serve?

A: The goal of my teaching policy has always been to help students decipher what such policies mean to their clients' lives, and their own. And that lesson does not change. Public policies are typically passed at government levels through processes that seem impossible to understand or track. The content of my teaching has been to give students the keys to unlock that process.

Once the processes and dynamics of policymaking are understood, it becomes easier to advocate for changes that will benefit the groups with whom social workers interact. Thus, in the future, the skills to understand policy and track the impacts will continue to be vital to successful social work practice. 

Q: Tell us about a few of your next steps.

A: My first steps will be to slow down and reflect on what I have done throughout my career, and what parts of that do I want to continue or replicate in my retirement. I have some writing ideas, including a family history project.

My father served in the Army during World War II and landed on the beaches of Normandy, France, and fought through to the famous Battle of the Bulge. He was captured and spent the rest of the war as an American prisoner of war in German prison camps. He shared a lot of his experiences, which shaped his teaching in our family about social justice and (before I had the term for it) social empathy. In many ways my father is my original source for social empathy. I have taped conversations I would like to transcribe and see where they lead me in terms of a book or something in written form to share with the rest of the family and maybe a larger audience.

I am grateful to have all my training as an academic researcher to guide me through this process.

Mark J. Scarp

Media Relations Officer, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions