LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies (CREES) has been awarded a major grant from the U.S. Department of State as part of the U.S.-Russia Peer-to-Peer Dialogue Program.
The grant calls for CREES, working with the Center for Transboundary Cooperation in St. Petersburg, Russia, to identify, train and connect eco-reps from the Midwest with their counterparts in Russia. These eco-reps will design and enact projects with the goal of raising awareness and educating about sustainability, and creating positive environmental, social and economic effects in their schools, communities and small businesses. At the end of the yearlong project, the American designers of the top projects will be offered an opportunity to travel to Russia, and their Russian peers will visit Lawrence.
CREES Director Mariya Omelicheva noted the importance of the program.
“We are very happy to have been awarded this project, and to be working with our colleagues in St. Petersburg. With U.S.-Russian relations reaching an all-time low, I think it is important that these public diplomacy projects continue. Not only do they help to lay the essential groundwork for a more fruitful U.S.-Russian relationship in the future, but they also serve local and national interests and needs in both states," she said.
The project came about in part after a member of an Open World delegation from Russia visited Lawrence several years ago. She later contacted CREES and asked whether they wanted to work with her on this project.
“She was evidently very impressed with all of the things that Lawrence and KU are doing in terms of sustainability, and she wanted to partner with us on this,” Omelicheva said.
CREES will invite applications from creative individuals or small teams who are interested in educating their peers about environmental issues, advocating for sustainable living and leading sustainability projects. Students and non-students may apply as long as they are between the ages of 18 and 30. For American applicants, knowledge of Russia or Russian language is beneficial but not required.
While the concept of eco-rep networks is not new, Omelicheva makes a few key distinctions between similar programs and the KU project.
“What makes this program different is that fact that these eco-reps will be able to learn from each other, both here in the United States and across international borders. I think it is unique, also, in that it is not limited to the college campus but is intended to embrace sustainability leaders in businesses and in the general community.”
Learn more about the project and the application requirements here. CREES will accept applications from Sept. 30 through Nov. 15. Applications will be available soon.
This project is funded by a grant from the United States Department of State’s U.S.-Russia Peer-to-Peer Program (award # S-RS500-15-GR-124).
CREES is designated a National Resource Center for the study of Russia, Eastern Europe and Eurasia by the U.S. Department of Education and receives Title VI funds for educational outreach activities.