Pushkin Summer Institute

The Pushkin Summer Institute is a UW-Madison precollege enrichment program for high school students from traditionally underrepresented groups who are interested in expanding their linguistic and cultural horizons, in this instance with an emphasis on Russian studies. Underlying the program is a multi-pronged strategy that combines the latest knowledge about best practices in language acquisition with an integrated subject curriculum focused around Alexander Pushkin, Russia’s national poet (“Russia’s Shakespeare”), whose African heritage was instrumental in his sense of identity and in crucial aspects of his life and works. The example of Pushkin has never been used this way with an American student audience. We believe his life story, amazing ancestry and supreme ability to turn the adverse circumstances dealt to him by life into creative behavior and a legacy that has touched millions, can be harnessed in a way to inspire young people who may have their own difficult circumstances to overcome. In addition to exposing participants to an intensive introduction to Russian language and culture, the program also helps students to better understand what will be expected of them, both academically and socially, in college.

Enrichment activities are also provided to help prepare students for life on a college campus. Some of the activities include: weekly lectures on Pushkin’s life, work, and times, presentations from the UW-Madison Office of Admissions and Recruitment and the Office of Student Financial Aid, workshops on selecting and preparing for a major in college, securing internships and academically related positions as an undergraduate, and other hands-on workshops and activities. Co-curricular activities occur during the evenings and weekends as part of the residence hall programming. Evening programming consists of recreational and other leisure activities as well as supplementary activities to the students’ academic interests (e.g. Russian tea with bliny, Charades/krokodil, Russian dinner party, Russian films, Russian music night, trivia on Russian language and culture). Weekend activities may include trips to recreational parks and cultural activities (i.e., barbecue/shashlyk in the park, the circus, Wisconsin Dells water parks, concerts on the rooftop/Capitol Square).

At the end of the program, all students participate in a closing performance that features their talents in Russian. Families, faculty and program staff are invited.