See What our Russian Alumni are up to

Daniel Scates, triple major with a BA: Russian, Economics, and International Relations, Class of 2021

Marina Shatskikh, BA Russian and BS Pharmaceutical Chemistry

At first, I came to UCDavis as a Pharmaceutical Chemistry major, but, as a Russian native-speaker, enrolled in a Russian course my first quarter to brush up on my grammar, reading and writing skills. What I did not know then, but came to quickly realize is that I had found a second family. The department is fairly small, which allows for intimate class sizes, an opportunity to connect with the professors, and make life-long friendships with peers. The faculty is very supportive and the courses are enriching and fun! As a way to give back to the department, I took on the role of Undergraduate Peer Adviser during my junior and senior years, serving as a liaison between the faculty and perspective/current students, and was heavily involved in the Russian Cultural Association (RCA) social group on campus through which I met some of my best friends. I ended up double majoring and particularly enjoyed Russian Film, 19-th Century Russian Literature, Women in Russian Culture, Pushkin and Literary Translation. All of these courses provided me with a greater worldview and helped develop my critical reasoning, communication (verbal & written) skills, which I can apply in my future career.
Currently, I am working as a medicinal chemist at a pharmaceutical company in the Bay Area, while applying to medical schools. As an aspiring physician, I hope to use my knowledge of the Russian language and culture to better serve Russian-speaking patients. Along with several peers from UCDavis, I founded the Nadezhda (Hope, in Russian) Slavic Health Project, a non-profit organization geared towards providing free health consultations and insurance guidance to uninsured, low-income, predominantly Russian-speaking people in Sacramento through collaboration with community organizations and UC Davis School of Medicine students and physicians. Using the language skills gained in the Russian courses, I am better able to communicate with the patients and build a relationship of trust through the shared culture.
Overall, being part of the Russian Department at UCDavis was a highlight of my undergraduate career! I was able to connect with the faculty and peers, build life-long relationships and better prepare myself for my professional goals.

Bettina Kaiping, BA: Russian and International Relations

Now that I have graduated from UCD, I am currently working in town at a small translation company called Avantpage, Inc. as the Office Manager.  I decided to major in RUS, because I was lucky enough to study abroad in Russia during high school and learn Russian while I was there and I really wanted to continue learning.  I loved UCD! I miss it already and I haven't even left town. UCD is a great school, with an amazing community.  I would advise incoming students to the RUS major to do all the reading! It’s good reading, honestly, and how cool will you feel when you get to tell people about all the Russian lit you've read!

Mycah Hetzler, BA; Russian and English
Choosing to major in Russian at UC Davis gave me a unique and fun college experience. The staff encouraged me and worked closely with me to better improve and utilize my language, literary, and writing skills. My favorite classes were Post-Soviet literature and Women in Russia. I also pursued an undergraduate thesis on the topic of Russian Women’s lit with Professor Kaminer, which I am very proud of. I am now working as a project coordinator at Avantpage, Inc. where I work closely with other Russian speaking co-workers and translators where I can continue to perfect my language skills.


Katya Rafanova, BA; Psychology and Russian
I majored in Russian because I wanted to learn how to read, write and better speak in Russian as well as learn more about my culture. Because the Russian Department is relatively small compared to others, not only is it easy to connect with the department's professors but there are many opportunities to get involved and enhance your college experience. As a result of the smaller class sizes, I had many opportunities to get to know my classmates and make new friends; and in the process was fortunate to form the Russian Cultural Association, which wouldn't have happened without the support of students and teachers. I always looked forward to my Russian classes because of the professors' enthusiasm for the topics, interesting assignments, numerous fun activities, and the opportunities to interact with teachers in the small class size environment. During my time at UC Davis, I also had the opportunity to work as the student undergraduate adviser for the Russian major and enjoyed sharing my passion for the program with other students. Though I never got to study abroad in Russia (due to the cancellation of the trip I applied to), many students have told me about the amazing experiences they've had while studying in Russia through UC Davis' study abroad programs or doing internships at the US Embassy in Moscow.

Based on my knowledge of Russian, I easily found a job working as a medical assistant in a clinic that was hiring only bilingual staff.  Knowing Russian and the cultural history of the Slavic community helps me countless times throughout the day. When I travel, I always run into fellow Russian speakers or places where my knowledge of Russian language, literature and history is relevant. In the future, I know that my decision to major in Russian at UC Davis will benefit me in my pursuit of becoming a medical student and working with multicultural populations.


Michael Mikhov, BA; International Relations, Economics and Russian
When I came to UC Davis, I was determined to major in International Relations and specialize in Eastern Europe.  One of the requirements for my major was to take a foreign language and Russian seemed to be the perfect choice. As I started to take Russian, I found these classes to be very enjoyable. The class size was relatively small and I was able to meet a lot of great people and really get to know my professors. After taking the required amount of Russian courses for my International Relations major, I found myself wanting to take more Russian courses, so I double majored in Russian. I really enjoyed taking Russian literature courses such as Dostoevsky. Taking Russian literature courses not only improved my analytical and writing skills, but more importantly allowed me to gain a new perspective and insight into the Russian culture.

After I graduated from UC Davis, I started working for a multinational investment company. The analytical and writing skills that I developed while taking Russian are very useful in my career. Also, many multinational corporations have offices in Russian speaking countries and I think that my knowledge of Russian will allow me to have an opportunity to work abroad.

Overall, I had a great time learning Russian at UC Davis. I was able to meet great people, get to know my professors, and learn more about a very interesting part of the world.  


Ilona Manzyuk, BA; International Relations and Russian
I was an International Relations major at UC Davis, class of 2010.  While at UCD, I decided to take a few Russian grammar courses because I grew up in a home where Russian was spoken, but never had a chance to study the grammar.  As I learned about other courses offered by the Russian department, I was intrigued and wanted to learn more about the literature, culture, and history, so I decided to double major.  I soon discovered how rich and intriguing Russian history was and how much I had to learn about the culture.  The best part was learning something new and coming home to talk to my parents about their viewpoints/experiences regarding the concepts I was discovering from my courses. 

The professors from the Russian department were very passionate about the subjects they taught and were very helpful.  I enjoyed reading world-renowned classic Russian literature and discussing the historical and cultural context in class.  It was also great to have the smaller classroom sizes because I got to actually meet my classmates instead of drowning in a sea of large lecture halls.

Overall, I feel that taking the Russian major truly enriched my own self-awareness of the Russian culture and revealed many mysteries about why the culture is the way it is today.  I am currently pursuing a law degree, and this awareness will definitely help me with my future plans to work with facilitating adoptions from Russian-speaking countries.


Bea Gatchell, BA: Russian and International Relations. (MA, LCSW)

I’m so happy I decided to major in Russian! I fell in love with Russian culture and literature through reading Matt Taibbi’s commentary in the expat newspaper The Exile in the 90’s. At UC Davis, I was not only able to study Russian language but took classes in Russian culture, literature, and history. I loved the smaller class sizes which allowed for rich classroom discussions about the nuances of Russian writing and culture.

After my education at UC Davis, I went to graduate school at the University of Chicago to study clinical social work. Currently, I work at Howard Brown Health, an LGBTQ+ health clinic as a coordinator for their sexual harm response program. I get to occasionally use my Russian language skills when we have a Russian speaker come in for services.

Marina Hrytskevich, BA; Russian and BS; Exercise Biology
I came to Davis as a freshman into the College of Biological Sciences as pre-med. Nevertheless, my major was still undeclared and I was very disoriented in the choice of my classes, and what major I should choose. I found out about the Russian program at orientation and I decided to take one class and see how went.  After four years in Davis, I still can say that it was the best class I took in Davis, not only did it challenge my Russian grammar, but also met people with diverse backgrounds, with whom I am still friends. I continued on taking Russian courses to complete Russian as my second major. I enjoyed coming to lectures, since the classes were small, and I knew most of the people who were in the program; that’s why discussions were more exposed and more thought provoking. Coming from a science major where lectures consisted of four hundred students, being able to actually get to know my professor was an enormous plus in the Russian program. My favorite courses were the Russian literature courses; Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and Chekhov - these courses made me love Russian literature even more and to appreciate the depth of Russian culture.

Even though I had to stay in school longer in order to finish Russian as my second major, I don't regret it at all, since it is very advantageous in my career. It also has profited me in a cultural aspect, because when I meet Russian-speaking people I always surprise them with my knowledge of Russian cinema, literature, and their culture.


Veronika V Rodriguez BA; Russian and BS; Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

The reason I majored in Russian (which was my second major) was because I wanted more exposure to Russian literature and history. Russian was my first language since I’m an immigrant from Ukraine. Since I came as a child, I knew how to speak the language, but I didn’t have much cultural background. I think it’s important to know what your cultural background is to become multicultural and to understand how your culture fits with other peoples backgrounds. I would definitely recommend majoring in Russian (as a second major) to become more familiar with the Russian culture, and we do have some great Russian classics! I think if you have two majors under your belt then that would make you more competitive in basically any professional field you work in.

I also majored in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and currently I’m a lab manager here at UC Davis. I’d say my science degree is a bit more useful since I work in a laboratory. The Russian major not only fulfilled my curiosity about my culture, but also it made me a more well-rounded individual. I find observing other people and trying to understand them fascinating, and as a lab manager I do have to be able to work/read people. In short, I would recommend students take Russian courses and potentially major (or minor) in Russian. I did enjoy all my classes, especially all the literature courses!

Sasha Melnikova BA; Russian and BS, Psychology

I graduated with a double major, one was Russian language and the other was psychology, which actually have complemented each other beautifully. Currently, I am in my 3rd year of my clinical psychology (Psy.D) doctorate program and my Russian degree has helped me a lot. 

Initially when I came to UCD I had decided that I wanted to double major in Russian as a way to keep connected to my roots and to have the opportunity to practice the language. I am a native Russian speaker but when I came to college I found that I didn't have a lot of people to speak Russian to, other than my parents over the phone, and I found myself forgetting some words here and there and feeling distanced from the culture. Making Russian my second major helped me practice and upkeep my Russian language skills while also reconnecting me back with the culture and filling the void that I was missing being away from home. 

Post graduating, even in my chosen field of psychology, I have been using my Russian skills quite a bit. This past year I worked with the San Francisco Department of Public Health on their emergency psychiatric crisis team, translating for and working with Russian speaking clients and their families experiencing mental health crises in the city. Despite San Francisco having a very large Russian speaking population, I was the only Russian speaker they had in that department. In addition to using my major for translation work with clients, I am using it to assist me in my dissertation work. 

My dissertation is focusing on the mental health stigma in the Russian community and looking at rates of acculturation and resource utilization in Russian-Americans and Russian immigrants in the United States as well as exploring the cultural factors that have contributed to the stigma as well as the cost of it to our community (higher than average rates of alcoholism, domestic violence and suicide). The classes that I had taken in undergrad had given me a lot of information on the development of the culture through the decades and gave me a greater understanding of what I should look into during my research. Of course, the language classes helped me upkeep my Russian so now I can use those skills to translate psychological measures in order to be able to use them in my research with Russian immigrants who may not feel as comfortable with English as they do with Russian. 

I know this has been a very long and probably overly information filled email, but the bottom line is that choosing Russian as my second major not only gave me the language skills that I use in my translation work but it also connected me back to my culture when I felt that I was losing it most when I was away from home. Through readings of different authors and poets and learning about life over the decades, I gained a better understanding of the development of the culture over the years which now I am applying to my dissertation work in order to hopefully decrease mental health stigma in the Russian community in the U.S.