Fairfield University partners with Russian business university for faculty exchange program


Fairfield University has become the first university in the United States to partner with Russia's most prestigious university of economics, finance and business.

The St. Petersburg State University of Economics and Finance (FINEC) will look to Fairfield for help in updating its teaching methods, which currently rely heavily on lecture and theory.

The alliance is Fairfield University's second such partnership with a Russian university. Fairfield's eight-year partnership with Herzen University has focused on the humanities and social sciences, said David McFadden, Ph.D., chair of the history department and director of the Russian and East European Studies Program at Fairfield.

"This gives us another St. Petersburg partner that brings in economics and the business school," Dr. McFadden said, adding that FINEC is very well connected in Russia and thus an excellent school with which to form an alliance.

FINEC has deep roots in Russian history, having evolved from its role as the National Bank of Russia during the Tsarist period and the State Planning Agency's Economic and Banking Institute during the Soviet period. Its more famous alumni include several high-level aides to President Vladimir Putin; the head of Gasprom, Russia's gas giant; and Anatoly Chubais, who was an economic advisor to Boris Yeltsin.

"This relationship is all about partnership," said Timothy Law Snyder, Ph.D., dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Fairfield University, home to the departments of economics and communication.

"We are partnering with FINEC colleagues for sharing, in both directions, cultural, pedagogical, and scholarly knowledge in which one partner is expert and through which the other can grow," Dr. Snyder said.

"Our partnership will bring about more opportunities for students and scholars of both universities, who will benefit from learning complementary cultures and ideas," Dr. Snyder added. "And we even have an internal partnership, between two Fairfield schools, that reflects Fairfield's ongoing, growing partnership with the larger world."

The partnership with Herzen has helped Fairfield's Russian and East European Studies Program gain support from the J. William Fulbright Scholars Program, the Gladys Kreible Delmas Foundation, the PepsiCo Foundation and many more.

The FINEC partnership will begin with a seminar, planned to take place in the fall, that will gather faculty members in finance, management, economics and communication from each university. The universities are also seeking funding for various other projects.

Both the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Business at Fairfield University have engaged in innovative curriculum development, working throughout the process to broaden the international expertise of their faculty. In Russia, by contrast, teaching methods at the university level have remained strictly lecture oriented, primarily because so much faculty training took place in the Soviet period when theory was the pedagogical emphasis. Seeking to incorporate new teaching methods and create links between academic theory and actual process, FINEC sought to develop a relationship with an AACSB-accredited business school in the United States, as well as a university with excellent economics and communication faculty.

Those interchanges will benefit Fairfield's professors as well, said Norman Solomon, Ph.D., dean of the Dolan School of Business.

"By working with FINEC faculty, DSB faculty will have a richer understanding and appreciation of both teaching business and 'doing business' in a nation moving from a planned economy to a fully market-oriented economy," Dr. Solomon said.

"Through this project, faculty will be given excellent comparison material for classroom discussion in Fairfield," Dr. Solomon said. "Also, when a planned conference of Fairfield and FINEC faculty takes place then, with the use of e-mail and web-based technologies, post-conference contact between FINEC and DSB faculty could be expanded to involve contact between students in courses being taught by those faculty in their respective home institutions."

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on February 3, 2003

Vol. 35, No. 175