2022 Recipients

Outstanding contribution to scholarship: Marcus Levitt

Professor Marcus Levitt is one of the world’s authorities on eighteenth-century Russian literature and culture. Broadly speaking, Professor Levitt focuses on the way Russian writers adapted western developments to create their own “modern” literary tradition. His ability to combine intellectual history with close literary analysis makes his work required reading for anyone working in this area. His writing stands out for his original insights, knowledge of sources, and lucid exposition.

Professor Levitt’s interests are by no means limited to the eighteenth century. His first book, Russian Literary Politics and the Pushkin Celebration of 1880, is an exemplary study of reception and a major contribution to our understanding of the Pushkin cult. He has edited several volumes on other periods of Russian culture, among them the pathbreaking Eros and Pornography in Russian Culture (1999) and the unfortunately topical Times of Trouble: Violence in Russian Literature and Culture (2007). Professor Levitt also organized the Russian Satirical Journal Project in collaboration with the USC Libraries. The goal of the project is to digitize USC’s collection of Russian satirical journals from the Revolution of 1905 with an extensive searchable database. It now contains about 150 Russian-language titles with over 6,500 pages of text.

In addition to his superlative scholarship Professor Levitt has been generous in his service to the field, including a four-year stint as the SEEJ book review editor. For decades he has been a caring and encouraging mentor to USC students. Even as an emeritus professor, he continues to advise, collaborate, and produce research with former students and colleagues. His charismatic personality, dedication to Slavic studies, open-mindedness and willingness to expand his knowledge outside of the field of Russian literature make him a particularly appropriate recipient of AATSEEL’s award for outstanding contribution to scholarship.

Outstanding Contribution to the Profession: Irina Dubinina

AATSEEL awards the 2023 Outstanding Contribution to the Profession prize to Irina Dubinina, Associate Professor of Russian and Director of the Russian Language Program at Brandeis University. An incredible scholar, teacher, and mentor, Professor Dubinina plays a vital role in bridging the gap between linguistics and language pedagogy. In addition to numerous scholarly articles, she is co-editor (with Evgeny Dengub and Jason Merrill) of the award-winning volume The Art of Teaching Russian (2020). Her research-grounded textbook of Russian for heritage speakers (Rodnaya Rech: An introductory course for heritage learners of Russian, co-authored with Olesya Kisselev, which earned AATSEEL’s Best Contribution to Language Pedagogy award in 2020) is viewed by many as a model for other languages. Likewise, Professor Dubinina’s multifaceted approach to heritage language studies has included creative use of new technologies and methodologies from the field of corpus linguistics: she is the lead researcher involved in creating an audio-aligned parsed corpus of bilingual Russian child and child-directed speech, a unique resource in the world of Slavic and East European languages and cultures. AATSEEL recognizes not only the broad impact of Professor Dubinina’s research, but the inspiring outreach initiatives she has created and helped oversee, from ACTR’s National Conversation series to the Teacher’s Lounge forum. The field has benefited immensely from her work providing professional development for language instructors through the summer STARTALK program. AATSEEL is honored to recognize Professor Dubinina for her tremendous contribution to the field.

Excellence in Teaching Award (Secondary School): Devin Browne

Devin Browne currently teaches Russian and French at Brashear High School in Pittsburgh, one of the largest and the most diverse high schools in the area. Devin established the only Russian high school program in the city almost a decade ago. He currently serves as chair of the World Language Department and instructional teacher leader in his high school. He regularly teaches in the “College in High School” program at the University of Pittsburgh, where he also supervises undergraduates from the Slavic department who work as teaching interns in his Russian program. Devin holds a BA degree in Russian and French and a master’s degree in Foreign Language Education from the University of Pittsburgh. He is not only an outstanding language teacher, but also an excellent administrator and superlative mentor. 

Devin takes advantage of every opportunity to make the learning of Russian more enjoyable and relevant for his students and to motivate them to continue their study. A few years ago he received a small outreach grant from Pitt and used it not only to buy necessary teaching materials but also to order a costume of a nose, the protagonist of Gogol’s famous story. Devin organizes an annual Russian cultural event, and his fellow teachers volunteer to walk around the school in the nose costume, thus drawing attention to the Russian program. Devin often invites students and faculty from Pitt’s Russian program to assist in cultural events for his students. Last year he organized a New Year’s party with crafts and tea, where he introduced his students to holiday traditions complete with costumes of Ded Moroz and Snegurochka. These are just a few examples of Devin’s creativity, resourcefulness, and enthusiasm, which make him a beloved and admired teacher. For his contributions to the profession, he was awarded the Pennsylvania Outstanding World Language Teacher award by PSMLA in 2019. He also actively participates in national professional organizations. He is a member of AATSEEL’s AWGDI group and presents at various ACTR events and programs. This award recognizes Devin’s long-term impact on his students as well as on Pitt’s undergraduates. 

Excellence in Teaching (post-secondary): Olga Klimova

AATSEEL awards the 2023 Excellence in Teaching (post secondary) prize to Olga Klimova, Teaching Associate Professor and Director of the Russian Program at the University of Pittsburgh.  The many colleagues and former students who nominated Professor Klimova for this award draw special attention to her commitment to diverse and inclusive pedagogies. Professor Klimova’s focus on the experiences of Russian speakers outside Moscow and St. Petersburg, including in Belarus, informs her work as program director for the STARTALK Summer Russian Language School, as regional chair for the ACTR Olympiada of Spoken Russian, and in the many workshops on diversity, equity and inclusion in the Russian language curriculum that she has offered at Pittsburgh, as part of the Critical Language Program, and at ACTR.  Her commitment to inclusive classroom spaces is also reflected in the expertise in hybrid and digital pedagogies that Professor Klimova developed well before COVID-19 forced us all online.  While her students at the University of Pittsburgh are the most immediate beneficiaries of her on-going work in this area, we thank Professor Klimova for the generous support that she has offered to many of us, including at the K-12 level, as we have shifted to incorporate new modes as well as new topics in our teaching.  Especially at this moment of sharp transitions in our field, we recognize Professor Klimova for her prescience, for her generosity, and for her creative and engaged teaching.

Outstanding service to AATSEEL: Lee Roby

AATSEEL is pleased and honored to recognize Lee Roby, long-time teacher of Russian at the Friends School of Baltimore, for her truly Distinguished Service to AATSEEL.  While Lee has only just stepped down from the Executive Committee after serving as one of the most active Vice-Presidents in recent memory, she continues to lead the K12 community for AATSEEL as she has for many years.  Lee has organized numerous conference panels for each conference, recruited new participants from high school programs, and fostered greater collaboration between K12 and post-secondary instructors.  Lee has also helped to recruit K12 teachers for AATSEEL’s Certificate on Diversity and Equity in Teaching, funded by the US Russia Foundation, and also participated in the program in its first year.  Together with William Comer, Lee has planned and now runs AATSEEL’s K-12 Teacher Excellence Program. We note just a few of the objectives of that program:

•       to provide recognition of K-12 excellence in the teaching of Russian
•       to create and sustain a professional network for K-12 teachers
•       to bring more K-12 teachers into AATSEEL in a way that sustains their continuing involvement
•       to provide professional development to K-12 teachers
•       to promote leadership from more K-12 teachers in AATSEEL

We are grateful for all that Lee does for AATSEEL and for our profession.