Back from the Brink
Moscow’s „Russian-American Institute“ is growing once again
M o s c o w – Today, the mighty, modernistic structure’s facade is plastered with advertising for an in-house fitness club and the stucco is peeling, but northern Moscow’s endangered “Russian-American Institute” is still in business. That quickly became evident in a talk with its dynamic dean and only full-time employee, Dr. Ruslan Nadyuk, on 12 May. Since the closing of RAI’s undergraduate, liberal-arts programme in December 2010, he and colleagues have developed a new “School of Social Work and Counseling” presently attended by 28 students.
Nadyuk and roughly 10 part-time instructors are offering a five-year bachelors programme leading to a degree in social work and family counselling as well as a two-year graduate diploma. An additional 130 students attend courses on topics such as addiction and rehabilitation. Other courses cover how to teach life skills to teenagers just “graduated” from orphanages, or how to coach adults in the skills required of successful adoptive parents. The students are no longer graduates fresh out of high school, but rather older, employed persons. All study part-time; the Russian-language courses are offered on evenings and weekends. English is also being taught, but not as part of the academic programme.
Nadyuk, a candidate for the professor’s title (habilitation) in psychology at the „State Linguistics University of Nizhny Novgorod”, has also served as a Baptist pastor for 13 years. He explains: “The goal of our program is the practical application of Christian faith. How can those who are already converted put their faith to work?” RAI is searching for niches not filled by the Russian educational system; it wants to offer programmes and serve people in ways in which secular institutions cannot. The grave social, spiritual and psychological needs of the masses are of course also evident in Russia.
This new programme stresses the integration of sociology and psychology – a common characteristic of social work programmes. The programme cooperates closely with Oklahoma’s “Oral Roberts University” (ORU) and Professor Lanny Endicott, the head of its Department for Social Work. Though the programme has a license for teaching, its current programme has not been accredited by the Russian Ministry of Education. Nevertheless, certain courses can be transferred to ORU for credit. Nadyuk points out that the lack of accreditation could be a blessing in disguise. The process of accreditation would “limit the healthy process of integrating both Christian and professional components within the programme, which is our priority”. He adds: “It is no secret that the USA has extensive experience in the preparation of counsellors, and we need to adopt the best of those traditions for our own purposes.” In contrast to many Russian evangelicals, RAI has no qualms about integrating the discoveries of psychology into its programme.
RAI is proud that the academic programme of its new School of Social Work may achieve financial self-sufficiency as early as 2013. Nadyuk notes that students care most about their studies when they are also personally responsible for payment. On 12 May, Associate Dean Mark Currie, a pastor from Virginia long serving in a non-denominational Moscow congregation, reported on a student who had just received a special grant to cover a portion of her tuition. “Terrific!” the woman exclaimed. “Now I can return to the pawn shop and buy back my jewellery!” Initially, at this early stage of the programme’s development, the majority of students stem from Moscow’s largest Protestant congregation: Matts-Ola Ishoel’s 4.000-member and Charismatic “Word of Life” congregation.
Wheaton/Maryland’s Dr. John Bernbaum remains RAI’s president. He is its founding father and was president when the original “Russian-American Christian University” (RACU) opened its doors in 1995. The name change followed in 2009. RACU/RAI is still affiliated with the Washington, D.C.-based, mainstream-evangelical “Council for Christian Colleges and Universities” (CCCU).
RAI’s magnificent new edifice was dedicated on 27 May 2010. But due to the lack of state accreditation, it was forced to drop its traditional, full-time programme only seven months later. Currently, seven-eighth of the building is rented to outside firms. Nadyuk explains that the unjust, heavy taxation on non-state education leaves no other option for the present.
Initially, RAI’s campus was not welcomed by its neighbours – over 10 public demonstrations occurred at the site during the five-year construction period. A monument warning of foreign influences still stands 50 metres away. Ironically, a national fraternal association of police officers is now a renter on 4th floor, which could be regarded as a sign of increasing understanding.
Further information is available on two sites: “www.rainstitute.ru” (Russian) and “russian-american-institute.org” (English).
St. Petersburg Christian University has a New Rector
In festive ceremonies on 19 May, Vasily Ryzhov, a professor of psychology, replaced Alexander Negrov as rector of “St. Petersburg Christian University” (SPbCU).
Ryzhov, who is above the age of retirement, began teaching mathematics at a high school in Boksitogorsk (Leningrad region) in 1965. He received a doctorate in psychology from Moscow State University in 1980 and his post-graduate degree as professor from Novosibirsk State University in 1995. He comes to St. Petersburg from the „State Linguistics University of Nizhny Novgorod”, where he began teaching in the psychology department in 1975. He had served there most recently as department head. A diligent writer, Professor Ryzhov has authored, co-authored or edited 263 publications, including 68 books. A convert to Protestantism two decades ago, colleagues in Nizhny Novgorod report that he is known as a particularly vehement defender of Christian-Protestant theology and its worldview. The professor was the initial supervisor for Dr. Ruslan Nadyuk’s post-graduate studies. Ryzhov also served as deacon in a Baptist congregation.
Dr. Negrov, a New Testament scholar who had served as rector since June 2005, will be spending his sabbatical year as Visiting Fellow at “California Baptist University’s” business school in Riverside. (CBU is the alma mater of Rick Warren.) Negrov will remain chair of SPbCU’s “Graduate School of Leadership”.
This event also served as the graduation ceremony for 50 new graduates. Guest speakers included George Baier, Director of the Board for Abbotsford, British Columbia-based “Logos Canada”. “Logos Canada”, which enjoys strong support from the Mennonite Brethren church, has been the primary supporter of SPbCU since its inception in 1990. The Canadian Mennonite Brethren are also strong supporters of thriving, English-speaking “LCC International University” in Klaipeda/Lithuania. Another speaker was Pastor Pavel Kolesnikov (Zelenograd), President of the “All-Russian Fellowship of Evangelical Christians” (VSECh) initiated by Moscow businessman Alexander Semchenko.
William Yoder, Ph.D.
Berlin, 31 May 2012
Note from May 2020: Vasily Ryzhov only lasted a few months as rector. Rector since May 2014 is Dr. Valery Alikin.
A journalistic release under the auspices of the Russian Evangelical Alliance. It is informational in character and does not express a sole, official position of Alliance leadership. It may be reprinted free-of-charge. Release #12-12, 1.050 words, 7.013 keystrokes and spaces.