Scholarships and Awards

The American Council of Teachers of Russian (ACTR) Post-Secondary Russian Scholar Laureate Award (PSRSLA) recognizes outstanding students who are studying Russian at the college/university level. The nominations revealed that there are some fantastic, dedicated, talented students in our Russian programs around the country who were honored. This is a wonderful way to applaud the efforts of our best students, while letting them know that we in the field appreciate and value their achievements. Moreover, because this is a selective, national program, students will be able to exploit the award as further testament to their skills and abilities as they enter the job market.


  1. Normally departments (be they independent or part of a larger Modern Language department) may nominate one student from either the junior or senior class.
  2. Eligibility is based on the demonstration of an active dedication - in course work, outside activites, attitude - to the study of Russian language and culture. Past laureates have demonstrated their enthusiasm for things Russian by becoming majors or minors, excelling in our courses on Russian language, literature and culture, participating in the National Post-Secondary Russian Essay Contest, the Poetry Evening, Russian clubs or Russian houses (among other things!).

2019 Laureate
Emily Rathburn

Emily Rathburn joined our program having already started her study of the Russian language. Unlike many of our students, she got her first lessons in Russia, when she traveled to dance at the Moscow State Academy of Choreography with her ballet troupe. When she transferred to Rutgers three years ago, she eagerly continued her formal study of the language, proving herself to be a strong, meticulous, and conscientious student.  Emily is one of the hardest working and most dedicated students in our language and literature courses.  She has shown particular commitment to her study of Russian language, literature, and culture by deciding to write a senior honors thesis — the first of our majors in several years to have done so. Tackling an ambitious topic (varieties of religious belief and experience modeled in Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov), she has been navigating a challenging novel and wide selection of secondary literature with curiosity, rigor, and poise. Despite a demanding schedule, including graduate-level courses toward a Master’s degree in Political Science, she has kept to self-imposed deadlines to draft perceptive analyses of each of the novel’s major characters and the modes of belief they represent, and her skill at clarifying her interpretations in dialogue with other critics has grown impressively over the course of the year.  Emily’s dedication to the study of Russian extends beyond the classroom. She is one of few regular attendees at our conversation hour, can be counted on to help promote our major, and attends nearly every extra-curricular event in our program. Her dedication and motivation have been a constant example for students throughout our program, and she has taken every opportunity to participate in building this intellectual community as an active participant at the talks, screenings, and cultural events we hold throughout the year.  

Rathburn ACTR


















2018 Laureate
Peter Carkuff

Peter Carkhuff, who goes by Rusty in English and Pyotr in Russian, is a senior, majoring in both Russian language & literature and political science. While at Rutgers he has also been in the Air Force ROTC program. His interest in studying Russian began in his first year at Rutgers, and he was by all accounts the most actively engaged student, showing an impressive aptitude for the difficult grammar of Russian. Before the first year was over, Rusty had applied for a Project GO grant to study Russian overseas. Due to his status with the military, Russia proper was not an option, but he spent six weeks in Estonia, immersed in a Russian-speaking community.  Rusty is one of the hardest-working, energetic, and engaged students to come through our program. He has proven his dedication to the study of the Russian language and culture over his years at Rutgers.  In a more difficult course on the structure of Russian, he was dedicated to understanding the difficult material, and his perseverance paid off. For a course on Tolstoy, Rusty was undaunted by the task of writing critically about a novel as complex and voluminous as War and Peace.  It is a sign of this curiosity that Rusty most enjoys difficult, philosophical writers such as Fyodor Dostoevsky and Mikhail Bulgakov. Rusty brings a strong positive energy to our program, not only with his involvement in the classroom, but with his representation at outreach programs. We can rely on Rusty to attend major fairs, and to recruit his friends and ROTC comrades into our courses. Rusty’s own words about how this major changed him perfectly capture how his love for the Russian language, literature and culture have spread into all areas of his life. He said, “I am much more engaged with the world, more culturally aware, and better able to understand different perspectives. It’s easy to look at another culture and judge it. But there are societal and historical reasons why a culture is the way it is. This major has given me the tools to explore and understand the world.”

Peter Carkhuff Crime and Punishment Photo













2017 Laureate
Michael Orama

Michael is a highly enthusiastic and gifted student of the Russian language, with a deep passion for any and all aspects of Russian culture. He is a leader among his peers in our program, offering informal tutoring to other students, and taking an active role in our conversation hours.  Michael, who goes by Misha in the Russian and East European Program, is majoring in Russian language and literature, with a minor in history.  Before transferring to Rutgers, he learned enough Russian on his own to place into an intermediate language course, a truly rare feat. After one year of formal language study, he participated in our intensive summer program in St. Petersburg, where he immersed himself in the language and culture.  Upon return, Misha’s language skills were near-native. In his advanced Russian language courses, he evidenced exceptional aptitude for learning the language.  Misha’s love for Russian led him to pursue another Slavic language while at Rutgers, Polish, in which he has made remarkable progress in a very short time. He also encouraged our program to offer a course on the structure of Russian as an independent study, where his passion for the language shines.  Misha has also excelled in his literature courses, into which he has brought insights from wide-ranging extracurricular reading. Beyond his coursework, Misha plays a very active role in the program. For example, he and fellow Russian major Don Courter greatly assisted the program in the celebration of maslenitsa by performing several songs and bringing in homemade Russian dishes: kvas, a savory pirog and delectable medovik. Misha’s current plans are to move to Russia to teach English, and to further improve his already-impressive command of the language, before beginning graduate studies. Ultimately, Misha wants to teach Russian. 

Orama photo for ACTR

2016 Laureate
Tobias Schofield

Toby is a double major in Russian and Mathematics who is enrolled in the Honors Program of the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers.  He is a devoted student of both Russian language and literature, and an enthusiastic contributor to the program outside of class.  Toby, who has served as secretary of the Russian Club, expanded the club’s activities by launching a new reading circle, choosing the texts and leading his peers in discussions.  In his literature courses, Toby is a model student.  His comments not only explicate or analyze the texts or questions at hand, but frequently introduce unexpected and creative approaches to them.  Toby acquired an excellent knowledge of Russian grammar, poetics, and versification, and performed dazzling analyses of poetry and prose, using the original Russian texts.  For example, he wrote a terrific paper on the theme of accumulation in Gogol’s “Nose” – about how characters hoard morals, rumors, money—based on a close reading of a single passage.  He has a particular passion for the writings of Dostoevsky, but his excellent papers (for example, a comparative paper on Lydia Ginzburg and Dostoevsky, or on Vasily Grossman and Vladimir Makanin) have shown wide-ranging intellectual curiosity and insight, as well as a gift for close reading.  Toby regularly attends Russian Program events, as well as cultural events off campus.  His immediate plans for life after Rutgers include service in the Peace Corps.

Schofield Tobias for ACTR

2015 Laureate
Ireen Ha

Ireen, a double-major in Russian and Comparative Literature, is an impressively astute reader with a talent for close reading of both poetry and prose.  Her papers combine careful, subtle analysis with fine writing, far-reaching thought, and original theses.  She is a model presence in the classroom, and can always be counted on to contribute thoughtful and compelling comments that further the conversation, and that engage with others’ thoughts about the text at hand.  She is one of our program’s best students of both Russian language and literature. In addition, Ireen contributes to extra-curricular events in the Russian program; she has volunteered to staff our table at Major Fairs, and actively participates in program events.  At two of our Evenings of Russian and Polish Poetry, Ireen recited the difficult verse of Joseph Brodsky, including the poem “Шесть лет спустя,” which was a meaningful selection: the poet himself had recited during a visit to Rutgers in the 1970s.  Ireen has studied Russian both at Rutgers and at Middlebury, where she completed two summers of intensive study.  She has achieved a very high level of proficiency, and an understanding of Russian grammar and syntax that is reached by only our very best students.  Ireen wrote original papers on Gogol, Turgenev, and Tolstoy, remarkable for the subtleties of their close reading, for the sophistication of their literary insight, and for the breadth of knowledge they evince of the Russian literary canon as a whole.  She is interested in pursuing a PhD in Slavic or Comparative literature.

2014 Laureate
Dylan S. Rose

Dylan’s enthusiasm for things Russian is amply demonstrated by his deep love of Russian literature, his impressive command of the Russian language, and his passion for literary translation.  At Rutgers Dylan is completing a double major in English and Russian, as well as a minor in German.  His genuine love of reading is always evidenced in class, when he shows his familiarity with texts outside the syllabus and curriculum.  A person with strong tastes, his greatest literary love is, fittingly, Vladimir Nabokov, who publicized his own strong literary preferences, and who straddled the Russian and American literary traditions.  Another major interest of Dylan’s is Anton Chekhov, whose stories he translated for an independent study senior year.   Dylan is an excellent student of both language and literature.  In advanced Russian classes, Dylan always asks the most difficult questions about grammar and word formation, and has a terrific understanding of one of the most difficult topics in Russian: aspect.  He has taken an active role in Russian cultural activities outside of class, whether by attending the Russian Conversation Group, or serving as secretary of the Russian Club.  At one of our Maslenitsa celebrations, Dylan performed Russian songs on his violin. Dylan is an intellectually inquisitive student with an infectious enthusiasm for Russian culture.   

2013 Laureate
Rebecca M. Gangi

Becca is a star student in both Russian language and literature courses at Rutgers, where she is completing a double major in Russian and Political Science.  She has already been awarded several prizes in our internal essay contests, was inducted Dobro Slovo (the National Slavic Honor Society) during her sophomore year, and into Phi Beta Kappa in 2012, during her junior year.  Becca is writing a senior honors thesis in Political Science with Professor Jan Kubik, on Russian-American relations and more specifically, the image of Russian gangsters in American popular culture.  Her dedication to the study of Russian and Russian culture led Becca to participate in our summer program in St. Petersburg in 2011.  Here she proved herself not only as a reliable, diligent, and inquisitive student, but also a person with an unbounded curiosity for things Russian.  At Rutgers, Becca wrote excellent papers on Nabokov, Gogol, and Dostoevsky.  She served as president of the Russian Club for two years, organizing cultural excursions, educational activities, and fun events that generated enthusiasm about Russian culture.  She always volunteers to help at department events – and indeed received our department’s service award in spring of 2012.  Becca plans to pursue a career in conflict resolution, and to attend law school as a step on this path.    

2012 Laureate
Kyle Barry

Kyle has distinguished himself in both language and literature classes. Always going beyond the bare minimum, Kyle delves deeply and broadly in the subjects he studies. He is a lover of poetry and can recite both English and Russian poems by heart. So comfortable is he with poems in either language that he is able to quote a poem during class to make a point. Having started Russian at Rutgers, Kyle made remarkable progress in his proficiency in the language, and his language abilities and literary talents won him several awards in different years in the ACTR Post Secondary Essay Competition, as well as our own internal competition. Kyle was also inducted into Dobro Slovo, the National Slavic Honor Society. He participated in our summer program in St. Petersburg, living with a host family, and exploring the city with a curiosity and an openness to difference that deepened his knowledge of the city and its cultural heritage. He has been an active member of our student Russian Club and is a champion in Rubik's Cube competitions. Kyle also successfully completed a major in History and has plans to study next year in the European University in St. Petersburg, Russia, and continue graduate work in Russian in the United States after he returns with an M. A.

Kyle Peterhof

2011 Laureate
Robert Campana

Robert is a truly exceptional student whose gift for language acquisition, combined with an extremely high motivation, dedication, and hard work, has brought him to a rather advanced level of mastery in Russian. In 3 years Robert has completed all the requirements for the Russian Minor (moreover, he has taken courses beyond those that are required), while successfully pursuing his Major in Chemical Engineering. Robert’s dedication to and love for Russian, Russia, and Russians is self-evident and beyond any doubt. After graduating from Rutgers next year with a Major in Chemical Engineering and a Minor in Russian, Robert is hoping to put both to work in the country that he fell in love with – Russia.

Campana laureate

2010 Laureates
Erik Carmelia
Awarded Posthumously

Before his untimely death in February, Erik was a model student. He was particularly gifted in foreign languages and majored in Russian with minors in French and German. The study of languages and literature seems to have been something he did for himself, out of a love and respect for language itself. All his instructors speak of him as having been remarkably able to understand difficult grammatical points and to read and speak at a level beyond his actual level of study. Erik was frequently seen reading newspapers in several languages and was often deep in a book during his spare time. A participant in our first summer program in St. Petersburg, Erik proved himself not only to be an excellent student of foreign languages but also a keen observer of life around him in Russia. His e-journals were wonderful "snapshots" of the sights he saw on his travels around the city and were filled with interesting contrasts to what he knew of America.

Erik always challenged himself. He chose difficult poems to recite in class and at our evening of Russian poetry, and participated in the weekly Russian conversation group and the essay competition. He was inducted into the Slavic Honor Society, Dobro Slovo, in 2009.

People who get "the Russian bug" are a special breed and do not always come from the same mold as everyone else. Erik was one of us.

Erik Grad1

Peter Boyajian
Rutgers Camden

Peter has sought every opportunity to pursue his interest in Russia and Russian History. A student at Camden, where Russian is not taught, he has worked on his own and in independent studies to study Russian. He was an ideal participant in our first summer program in St. Petersburg in 2009. His work in St. Petersburg was exceptional as was his willingness to help and contribute to the general good of the program. Back home, he set hiself an ambitious agenda for study and displayed a remarkable ability to master new material quickly. He continues to be a real scholar and will participate again this summer on our St. Petersburg program. He hopes to return to Russia to work after graduation.

Peter is truly an great student: he is intelligent, has a big and open heart, and a true love for Russia and the Russian language--одним словом, настоящий интеллигент!

Peter grad

2009 Laureate
Tiffani Jarnigan

Tiffani has been a wonderful student in our Program. Her true dedication to Russian Studies is evidenced by her having spent a WINTER semester in St. Petersburg. Tiffani is always ready to help the cause of Russian studies.  She helps students when they need special tutoring, she meets regularly with a young visiting scholar from Kazakhstan to exchange help in Russian and English, and most recently she attended an orientation session for prospective students for our new study abroad program to give the students perspective on the experience of studying in Russia. Among her many accomplishments is her excellent interdisciplinary honors thesis on Russian Orthodoxy and Russian Nationalism. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Dobro Slovo, and will graduate from Rutgers College this May with High Honors. She is quite simply an outstanding person and one who has a serious interest in Russian.



2008 Laureate
Tatiana Borisova


Tatiana has contributed her time and energy to our Practicant Program, where advanced students assist instructors grading, checking homework and assisting students. She has been excellent in this capacity and has also volunteered to hold a conversation group once a week for interested students. Her Russian is native and she works to improve it through class work, reading and writing. Her academic record is impeccable and her work in Russian Literature has been outstanding.

Borisova laureate web