NCCC faculty member teaching in Russia as Fulbright Scholar

Selina LeMay-Klippel shares experiences through podcast

North Country Community College professor Selina LeMay-Klippel, seen here in Moscow’s Red Square, is teaching in Russia this semester through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program. (Photo provided)

SARANAC LAKE — North Country Community College nursing professor Selina LeMay-Klippel is teaching in Russia this semester after winning a prestigious Fulbright Scholar award.

LeMay-Klippel is living in Ufa, the capital city of the Republic of Bashkortostan, and teaching at Bashkir State Medical University. She is one of over 800 U.S. citizens who are teaching, conducting research, or providing expertise abroad for the 2018-19 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program.

Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement as well as record of service and demonstrated leadership in their respective fields.

“Selina’s exuberant persona and her ability to connect well with people results in highly engaged students in her classrooms,” NCCC President Steve Tyrell said in a press release. “We can think of no better person to represent the college and our nation in Russia. Selina has been recognized by SUNY for her great work as an educator, so we are sure the students at Bashkir State Medical University will also enjoy learning in the exciting classroom environment Selina creates for her students.”

Education ambassador

LeMay-Klippel, who lives in Minerva and is the college’s Ticonderoga campus coordinator, said she applied for the Fulbright Program because she identifies with its philosophy and mission.

“It’s really about connecting people to people, and in this case, connecting education to education, connecting university to university,” she said. “When I’m working with these students, who come from all over the world, they will have a better understanding of what American culture is and who Americans are, and I’ll have a better understanding of their culture. It’s like being an ambassador at an educational level for the United States. To me, that’s exciting because it creates so much potential to have an impact on the world.”

LeMay-Klippel said she pursued a Fulbright opportunity in Russia because she’s always been intrigued by Russian literature, music and culture. After her application was sent to the Fulbright Program’s office in Russia, officials at Bashkir State Medical University expressed interest in hosting her.

One of the leading medical universities in the Russian Federation, Bashkir State has an enrollment of 8,000 medical students, including more than 850 foreign students from 40 countries, plus another 1,000 students in clinical residences and PhD programs, and another 7,000 postgraduates.

In the classroom

Since she arrived in September, LeMay-Klippel has taught first- and third-year nursing students basic information like infection control and stress at the university’s Medical College and Tuberculosis Hospital. She’s also co-taught medical students, with the chair of the university’s Neurology Department, about the supportive aspects of care such as the psychological effects of dementia and its impact on caregivers. Her students have a basic understanding of English, although LeMay-Klippel still has her instruction translated into Russian.

Students in Russia are taught differently than in the U.S., LeMay-Klippel noted.

“We have curriculum that is more tailored to what they will need to know in their field of study for their specific job choice, like nursing,” she said. “Here the education is much more inclusive of other subjects like history, language (English), physical education and arts, all of which are required for a degree in nursing.”

In addition to her regular teaching responsibilities, LeMay-Klippel has also been asked to present at two major conferences at the university. One of the presentations will focus on innovative education in nursing in the United States, while the other will outline the role of medical, social and psychological support for patients experience depression after a stroke.

Red carpet

LeMay-Klippel said she’s received a very warm welcome from her colleagues at the university.

“I was expecting the welcome to be guarded but polite and accommodating, but what I received has been overwhelmingly inclusive and grateful, with the red carpet rolled out to every door in Ufa,” she said. “We have been to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, by invitation, where I had an amazing sit-down chat with Jon Huntsman, the U.S. ambassador to Russia. We’ve been to the premiere of a documentary on migrants’ plight during travel, by invitation from the Swiss ambassador, and the guest hosts of a university football tournament. It has been amazing.”

In an effort to share her experiences with students, colleagues and community members back home, LeMay-Klippel has created a series of podcasts. Available through NCCC’s website, “Russia on My Mind” features interviews with staff of the Fulbright Program in Russia, Fulbright scholars and researchers, and LeMay-Klippel’s students and colleagues at Bashkir State Medical University.

Going forward

When she returns to the North Country later this year, LeMay-Klippel said she plans to incorporate her cultural experience in the classroom in a variety of ways: new stories, new examples and hopefully better modeling.

“I think this recharge or supercharge will help me to refocus and direct my energy more specifically in the classroom,” she said. “Seeing other systems at work often helps us to analyze our own. I will also be bringing back to NCCC more insight into the role of hospitality and how that effects image and feelings of inclusion. As the Ti campus coordinator, I hope to really treat others as I was treated here in Russia.

“Last but not least, I am bringing back confidence. I wanted something that was a shot in the dark and unrealistic, but it happened. I am hoping by example that other faculty members and students will see that if I can do it so can they, and I want to help.”

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to build lasting connections between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. It is funded through an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations and foundations around the world also provide direct and indirect support to the program, which operates in over 160 countries worldwide. Since its establishment in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the Fulbright Program has given more than 380,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists and scientists the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.