In summer 2017, SPAN sent 24 students to Morocco and 10 students to Russia. Each student explored a research topic of particular interest and immersed themselves in the local culture with all its joys and challenges.
Exploring Moroccan culture
“In Morocco, nothing is certain, but anything is possible,” was how one of the SPANners reacted to her experience in Morocco. The first week in Morocco was spent in the capital Rabat, followed by visits to Fez and the Roman ruins in Volubilis. The students then separated into smaller groups and met research contacts in Rabat, Fez, Marrakesh, and Agadir. The faculty advisors, Professors Ryan Goei, Ph.D. and Dana Lindaman, Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota – Duluth, traveled to each city to support their students and help make introductions for the students’ research.
In Rabat, 12 students participated in the International Model United Nations of Morocco. In Marrakesh, two students volunteered at the Amal Women’s Training Institute and Moroccan Restaurant, which trains low-income women for work in the food and hospitality industry. In addition to cultural excursions, SPANners and their faculty advisors were invited to iftar dinners during Ramadan. These were among the most cherished experiences of the summer, many lasting into the wee hours of the morning.
Student research topics ranged from urban planning and renewable energy to art education and the role of traditional Moroccan music on contemporary Moroccan music to healthcare in Morocco to the ecology of argan trees and more.
Discovering Russia’s rich history
Ten students spent the summer in Moscow, 100 years post the Russian Revolution of 1917. The student researchers spent the summer immersed in the Russian language and culture, meeting a variety of Muscovites, pursuing key research contacts, and visiting surrounding cities and villages. The group was led by Faculty Advisor Matthew Miller, Ph.D., University of Northwestern – St. Paul.
The students visited a number of notable cultural sites such as Red Square, St. Basil’s Cathedral, the Kremlin, and the Novodevichy cemetery, where Boris Yeltsin and Nikita Khrushchev were laid to rest. While conducting their independent research, SPANners met with history professors, health care providers, an entrepreneur, a professional athlete, and the administrator of the National University of Science and Technology.
Student research subjects included business, the changing role of women in Russia, health initiatives, the role of the Russian Orthodox church, and election procedures among others. In addition to carrying out their individual research projects, students enrolled in Russian language courses at Moscow State University.
Since returning two students, Anya Udovik and Madeline Reid, presented their research findings the Interdisciplinary Student Research Symposium held annually by the Museum of Russian Art (TMORA) in Minneapolis. Anya gave an analysis of underground rock music publications in the 80s, while Madeline presented on the role of the Protestant and Russian Orthodox Churches in the Russian health care system since the fall of the Soviet Union.
Additionally, Meg Foster, another Russia SPANner, has presented her research on the involvement of women in the Soviet space program at more than one venue.