Fireside 2.1 ( The Slavic Connexion Blog Thu, 22 Oct 2020 16:00:00 -0500 The Slavic Connexion Blog en-us "Operation ASEEES and The Slavic Connexion’s Other Adventures" Thu, 22 Oct 2020 16:00:00 -0500 7f6f7c9e-d3b5-4755-a10e-b3a2aa1839dc In November of 2019, a skeleton crew of The Slavic Connexion podcast attended the ASEEES convention in San Francisco to conduct what we fondly called a “guerilla podcasting” mission. Read about their adventures as published in the October 2020 ASEEES NewsNet newsletter! Written by Cullan Bendig, Samantha Farmer, Lera Toropin, Katya Yegorov-Crate (The University of Texas at Austin)

Reproduced here from the October 2020 ASEEES NewsNet newsletter. Find the original digital newsletter here.

In November of 2019, a skeleton crew of The Slavic Connexion podcast attended the ASEEES convention in San Francisco to conduct what we fondly called a “guerilla podcasting” mission. For those of you who did not notice a gaggle of graduate students lugging microphones and soundboards around the Marriott, we are sorry we missed you, but we hope providing our perspective on the academic field and how we see our future in it is insightful to NewsNet readers. In San Francisco, we produced a miniseries of interviews with conference participants. Amid the impeccably organized chaos of ASEEES, we ran around meeting our guests, packing up our equipment at a moment’s notice to move to an empty room or hallway so we could record. The objective of this miniseries was multifaceted. We had the opportunity to introduce our listenership to new topics which we had not been able to previously cover from our home base at the University of Texas in Austin, covering more diverse subject matter and engaging more broadly with scholars in the field, especially those working outside the United States. Producing the miniseries allowed us graduate students to participate in a unique way, somewhere between presenting and observing. As first-year graduate students, none of us had our own research or papers to present, so interviewing was an effective way to engage with scholars’ research beyond the limitations of panels and Q&A sessions. The interviews were informal, around 20 minutes each, and focused on the guest’s conference paper.

Our ASEEES miniseries was the result of almost a year of hard work and is just the beginning of a new era of digital-focused, increasingly accessible research and instruction in our field, which we hope will actively include graduate students and our unique perspectives and abilities. The Slavic Connexion is a student-led podcast housed at the University of Texas Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies. The show focuses broadly on the region’s cultures, politics, people, and global connections. Unlike many shows in the burgeoning academic podcast genre, The Slavic Connexion works to deconstruct barriers to entry in academia, as well as providing entertaining and educational content to the general public. Although led by SEEES-oriented graduate students and aspiring scholars, this project also seeks to amplify research outside of our field. We pride ourselves on steering the narrative toward the interdisciplinary, producing a show that is accessible to many different types of listeners. A number of our episodes are recorded in Russian, and we plan to broadcast in other languages in the future, such as Czech, BCMS and Sakha (Yakut). In doing so, we hope to foster opportunities for students to apply their language skills and spotlight scholars
outside of the hegemonic sphere of English-language scholarship.

The Slavic Connexion began recording in February 2019 as the brainchild of Michelle Daniel, a graduate student in the Department of Slavic & Eurasian Studies at the University of Texas, after she participated in a study on youth civic engagement in Ukraine. In this program, Michelle engaged in cross-cultural dialogue with Ukrainian youth. Listening to young Ukrainians express their thoughts and feelings about the disconnect between those running the country and the younger generations who are the future of the country, Michelle wanted to create a long-term project, framed in some way by youth-driven conversations. It was through this experience that Michelle noticed the untapped potential of students and youth, whose perspectives are too often brushed aside. Podcasting is an effective, affordable, and straightforward way to uplift their voices. As of June 2020, The Slavic Connexion has 92 episodes, which you can enjoy and use freely in your own instruction and research. The podcast has swiftly evolved on two fronts since its humble beginnings. Firstly, the show has technically improved. Students involved with the project from the get-go learned how to properly record, edit, publish, and promote interviews, and experimented with different recording equipment. These are the kinds of applied skills graduate students are vaguely told they should acquire in order to succeed in the precarious world of academic employment, but which are rarely, if ever, formally taught. The Slavic Connexion crew has passed these skills on to newer team members, resulting in an alternative economy in which digital humanities skills are acquired in the field. Secondly, the podcast has grown in terms of its content, with regards to the diverse backgrounds of our guests, the breadth of subject matter discussed, and the approaches to said conversations. Although many of our episodes focus on politics or national security, we have worked to expand our coverage of culture and the humanities in order to better reflect the makeup of the field.

The strength of The Slavic Connexion lies in its ability to serve as a casual outlet to amplify the work of scholars, journalists, and students. The show fosters collaboration to open up our field. Podcasting is a democratic medium, meaning it can amplify the voice of anyone with access to recording equipment. There are numerous formats–the “chumcast,” where two or more people chat freely about a certain topic; the interview, where hosts rely on bringing guests into the studio; the story, where a narrative unfolds over time. There are also numerous genres–comedy, news and politics, health, self-help, business, and the broadly educational, to name a few. Within the educational genre is the subgenre of the academic podcast, distinguished by the sharing of research or strengthening of preexisting academic networks. These podcasts can be a vehicle to publicize work already appearing in journals and books. However, the digital format is a space of knowledge production in its own right, bypassing the increasingly stringent and oftentimes inequitable market of academic publishing. Podcasting also benefits classroom instruction, providing a supplementary tool or creative project for students. Finally, as a collaborative space it invites cooperation of folks in different positions, of different expertise, and across various institutions. The field of podcasting continuously evolves, with new voices and perspectives emerging. Why not use the medium to add a new community element? In light of our increased dependence on online instruction, we have adapted to interviewing over Zoom (you know the one), meaning the opportunity to connect is now limited only by time zones and broadband.

The Slavic Connexion'_s ASEEES miniseries was an exciting way to be introduced to the truly global field of Slavic, East
European, and Eurasian Studies. Researching our own projects sometimes feels like we are wearing blinders, that we are alone in our interests and what we study. ASEEES shows that there is a vibrant community of individuals who share our diverse interests. Nevertheless, we believe there is room for even more opportunities and roundtables at the conference exclusively for graduate students and other precarious members of the field, such as independent scholars, non-tenured faculty, and international scholars. Attending the 2019 ASEEES Conference was a unique experience for each member of _The Slavic Connexion
crew. Here were some of their key takeaways, in their own words:

Cullan Bendig: I have been advised on more than one occasion that one way to find research topics is by picking something small and turning it into your whole world. While I have found this to be helpful advice, at the time it struck me as a prescription for lonely obsession with things that are of limited interest to most people. My experience at the 2019 ASEEES Conference dispelled that notion. When we were able to take a break from preparing and recording interviews, The Slavic Connexion crew attended panels, presentations, and discussions covering every topic imaginable within our field. As a podcast team, the ASEEES Conference also provided a space where we could hold in-person interviews that would have otherwise been impossible.

The outlook I have toward my experience at the ASEEES Conference is not the same one now that I would have expressed a few months ago. As I write this, I have not been in a physical classroom since mid-March. Virtual classrooms may get close to the real thing, but nothing compares to the lived experience of being in a room full of fervent conversations about topics so close to your own interests. Looking back on ASEEES, I am reminded of everything that motivated me to return to graduate school. Seeing the full depth and breadth of the field all gathered in one location made it clear to me that I had made the correct decision. From Lynda Park and Margaret Manges’ indispensable help to the attendees who generously and readily participated in our show, my trip to ASEEES was nothing but encouraging.

Samantha Farmer: Like most pockets of society, academia is besieged by privatization and virtually saturated with fears over the disappearing horizon of success. Jobs in humanities and our field disappear or adjunctify, and the tenure-track job market has become a lottery for the lucky few. These are not new fears, but they are certainly concerns I had (and still have) when deciding to pursue a graduate degree in the field. Attending ASEEES and seeing the colliding ecosystem of scholarly communities that exist in the field was somewhat of a balm to my worries, though that ecosystem is still vulnerable to ongoing material crises most intimately felt by our precariat. Nevertheless, at ASEEES I had the opportunity to attend panels and interview scholars whose research topics may not hold as much sway in the field, which is dominated by Russian and Soviet studies. As a student who does not study Russia, it was all the sweeter to have my pick of panels on the former Yugoslavia or on translation. It was also exciting to be able to meet with researchers who are not based in the United States. If our current exodus to the digital world has any silver linings, surely they include an increased opportunity to connect online and decenter US-based scholarship from the inside. Perhaps, The Slavic Connexion provides a model for such digital disruption.

Lera Toropin: Deciding to pursue a dual degree in Global Policy Studies and Russian studies at UT was a significant departure for me from my previous career in Japanese language, one heavy with indecision. Would I be able to carve a space for myself in an entirely new realm of academia that appeared to have insurmountable barriers to entry? ASEEES, a massive conference with a dizzyingly in-depth schedule of presentations and roundtables, didn’t seem like the place to find out. Surely, I hadn’t earned enough cred yet to sit at the table and rub elbows with published authors and impressively qualified researchers.

From our team’s very first interview, a fascinating and warm discussion with Dr. Vladimir Golstein, I was immediately proven wrong. The field of SEEES isn’t necessarily vast, but it finds its strength in the small, supportive circles that promote collaboration and exchanges of ideas. All our cold interview requests were answered with enthusiasm. All the interviewees we spoke with were welcoming and generous with their time, glad to share their work and explain the fascinating research they were pursuing, and the conference organizers went out of their way to make us feel welcome by providing us spaces to record. I found encouragement at ASEEES; really, it was the first time I felt that my sharp career change had been the right choice. ASEEES made it clear that there’s room in this field; room for our podcast crew, and certainly room for a questioning dual-degree graduate student to come to the table, though perhaps not necessarily to rub elbows – need to keep room for the microphones, after all.

_Katya Yegorov-Crate: _I attended the 2018 ASEEES Convention during a rather uncertain time in my academic career and my life in general. I had just graduated with my bachelor’s degree in May of that year and was still unsure what I wanted to do in the future, so I went to the conference on a whim with hopes it would provide me some kind of direction. I visited with many of my old colleagues and former professors, and I found the panels and roundtables (although a little daunting) to be incredibly illuminating and motivating. A year later, I went to the 2019 ASEEES Conference as a new graduate student in a master’s program, and felt inspired to continue on in academia, although it remained daunting, to some extent. My biggest take-away from our miniseries project at this year’s conference was how enthusiastic people were to invest their time and energy in a project with four students at its helm, and how encouraging our guests were of our aims to synthesize research into compact segments for listeners who come from a range of backgrounds. I would also add that I enjoyed the opportunity to attend panels that in one way or another touched on a great deal of my personal interests – Indigenous peoples of Russia and climate change.

In continuing this project, we at The Slavic Connexion aim to bring a level of joy and pleasure to academic work, to demonstrate that no barrier to entry exists in podcasting (nor should it in academia), and to carry on creating content that is both intellectual and public-facing. This means adapting to new, digital means of collaborating, which foster solidarity within academia, as well as with those who are excluded from academia altogether. This also means holding ourselves accountable to include communities and issues in our regions of study that are often obscured by the unquestioned whiteness of Eastern Europe and Eurasia, and working to make our field more equitable for Black, Indigenous, POC, and queer scholars and students among us. The Slavic Connexion _is determined to remain true to its principles of facilitating dynamic dialogues, making real connections, and embodying the University of Texas’s motto: “What starts here changes the world.” We are excited about what we do, and if you are too, we are just an email away. Listen to episodes of _The Slavic Connexion on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, or on our website at

Thanks and recognition: Podcasting is an inherently collaborative effort and so we have many to thank for the successes of The Slavic Connexion. We would first like to thank ASEEES for allowing us to record at the conference, and we are especially grateful to Lynda Park and Margaret Manges for their immeasurable help in realizing our ASEEES miniseries. A special thanks to all the guests who agreed to be on the show and who graciously took time out of their busy conference schedules to speak with us. Thank you to the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies for the financial support necessary to attend ASEEES and for the Center’s constant enthusiasm for our work. Thanks to Dr. Craig Campbell for inspiring the miniseries project, and Michelle Daniel for being an extremely supportive executive producer.

_Samantha Farmer is a graduate student at the University of Texas specializing in BCMS and literary translation. Lera Toropin is a dual degree Global Policy Studies/Russian Studies graduate student with a research focus on U.S.-Russia relations and Track II/III diplomacy programming. Cullan Bendig is a graduate student at the University of Texas-Austin interested in the use of digital consumer media as a tool for public history with a focus on media produced in the SEEES region. Katya Yegorov-Crate began her graduate studies at the University of TexasAustin in the fall of 2019 and has primarily worked on topics related to Indigenous peoples of Russia and native language revitalization in practice. _

Copyright 2020 ASEEES

Check out the ASEEES episodes here!

Just released! "Russian Youth and Civic Engagement" (Research from CEPA) Wed, 30 Sep 2020 14:00:00 -0500 9151bc50-6c81-47c6-874d-944840aaae26 Our recent guest Dr. Maria Snegovaya has just released the results of her research on Russian youth and civic engagement for the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA). The results are fascinating and lend insight into the current generation under Putin.

From the CEPA website:

"This publication is part of the "Modernizing Russia Project" a joint project between the Center for European Policy Analysis and the Levada-Center looking at the modernizing trends within Russian society. Read parts I and II here.

Over the past two decades, the former Soviet space has witnessed a sharp rise in popular uprisings demanding greater pluralism and democratic change. The common denominator in all of these waves of civic activism in countries such as Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, and several waves of mass protests in Russia has been that they largely coincided with the coming of age of new generations whose formative experiences took place after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Unlike their elders whose grievances were largely economic, these new generations were protesting for political reasons. They were demanding free and fair elections, fairer political representation, greater accountability, and transparency.

The young people of today’s Russia — sometimes called millennials, Generation Z, or “Putin’s generation,” — have known political life mainly under the current Russian president. Focused studies of urban youth in Russia find them to be more liberal and opposition-minded than the rest of the population. Surveys of large protests in Moscow from 2011-19 show that younger protesters constituted between 20-30 percent of all participants.1 This crucial demographic could play an important role in Russia’s future political development. Despite this phenomenon, there has been scant empirical research that has systematically examined younger citizens in Russia and behavioral and attitudinal characteristics that distinguish them from older cohorts.

This report uses existing public opinion surveys to provide a comparative and empirical examination of factors that distinguish Russia’s youth from older cohorts in terms of their sociopolitical attitudes and propensity for civic and political activism. It also presents the results of an empirical study of civic engagement among Russian youth run by the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) in collaboration with Russia’s leading independent public opinion pollster, the Levada-Center, in the fall of 2019. This report will deepen the U.S. policy community’s understanding of the issues that are driving civic and political mobilization in the post-Soviet space and in Russia."

View the full findings of Dr. Snegovaya and her team's research here:

Listen to Dr. Snegovaya's episode in which she discusses her study here:

What is the Wagner Group? Fri, 11 Sep 2020 19:00:00 -0500 8a3c60a1-73c6-4796-b234-77d7c37200f2 SlavX blogger Lexi Jovanovic gives us an overview of the Wagner Group based on the findings of her research. What is the Wagner Group?

by Lexi Jovanovic

Some people go to war for reasons of national honor. Some people go to war for money. The Wagner Group, a Russian private military company with extensive ties to Russia’s G.U. military intelligence directorate, does a little of both. While Wagner’s soldiers are officially independent mercenaries, they have in fact often served as agents of Russian foreign policy, facilitated and funded by the state. The group first emerged in Crimea in 2014 shortly before Russia annexed the territory, and since then its forces have been seen in (among others) Syria, Libya, the Central African Republic, Mozambique, Sudan, Zimbabwe, and Venezuela. Most recently, Belarusian authorities arrested 33 Wagner fighters in Minsk in late July, less than two weeks before Belarus’s contentious presidential election.

Viewed from the Kremlin, Wagner mercenaries mostly fill roles conventionally occupied by special forces. They carry out small-scale but critical missions in conflict zones, and they provide military training and support to allied groups and governments, most notably in Africa. Since Russia already has its GRU Spetsnaz units, whose veterans are heavily represented in Wagner’s ranks, one might wonder what the point is in creating, funding, and maintaining an entirely separate semi-fake mercenary organization. Why not just use the forces you already have?

For one thing: why does anyone do anything, really? For another, it’s cost-effective. Conventional military units need to be funded by taxpayer money, which in turn raises the specter of public financial accountability. Mercenary companies, on the other hand, can be largely self-supporting. The Wagner Group is (allegedly) owned and financed by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Putin ally whose business ventures also include a catering company that provisions Kremlin events. In addition to Prigozhin’s capital, Wagner is also partly funded by payments and resource concessions from foreign governments, in the style of a traditional private military company.

The main benefit of using Wagner, however, is plausible deniability. In official terms, the Russian government isn’t violating Ukrainian sovereignty, or arming autocratic leaders in sub-Saharan Africa, or fighting alongside rebels in Libya. That’s Wagner, and Wagner is totally different. Even if the Kremlin is orchestrating the operations and coordinating with Wagner on the ground, this degree of separation allows the state to conceal troop and casualty counts and to avoid international scrutiny. In this way, the Wagner Group effectively acts as a shell corporation for foreign military intervention. Through it, Russia can hide both the costs and the consequences of its actions.

All of this also makes it very difficult to know anything for sure about the Wagner Group and what it does. The organization isn’t even officially registered in Russia, where private military companies are still technically illegal. No one will publicly admit to being part of it. Even Prigozhin’s involvement, although widely reported, is still officially “alleged.” This kind of weaponized ambiguity is reminiscent of Russia’s infamous social-media disinformation campaigns, and some analysts categorize both efforts as “gray zone” operations that aim to create uncertainty in order to achieve policy goals. Wagner’s actual post-Ukraine activities don’t actually seem to have been very successful—but, as with everything, it can be hard to really know.

For episodes covering Wagner Group operations, see and

Welcome to Season 3! Sat, 29 Aug 2020 16:00:00 -0500 21501b59-8dae-451b-a6f6-75eff8e4dd56 This semester, The Slavic Connexion begins its third season! We are thrilled to announce some new additions to our team, joining us as hosts, assistant producers, and development assistants.

Katherine Birch is a junior at the University of Texas-Austin double-majoring in International Relations and Global Studies, and Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies. Although a native Houstonian, Eastern and Central Europe have always held special places in Katherine's heart, as her family lineage hails from the Czech Republic. She is an avid lover and learner of Europe and her interest in demystifying the complexity of Russia developed long before attending UT Austin. Katherine joins The Slavic Connexion as a host and hopes to better her personal understanding of the REEE regions, which are too often misunderstood. In addition, she looks to expand upon her interests in U.S.-Russia relations, politics and cultures of Post-Soviet states, and learn about ways in which relations between the U.S. and Eastern European nations can be strengthened through dialogue. Outside of academia, Katherine enjoys reading non-fiction books, learning languages such as Russian and German, and hiking.

Zack Johnson is a first year M.A. student in the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies program at UT Austin. Born in the waning days of Cold War, Zack grew up in the waters of southern California. While he wasn’t surfing, swimming, or fishing, he enjoyed studying political history, geopolitical affairs and exploring the depths of U.S.-Russia relations. Zack earned a B.A. in Political Science from San Jose State University, for which he examined the Soviet-Afghan war and the ‘Foreign Fighter Phenomenon’ seen during the conflict. To date, he is pursuing his M.A. in the REEES program, with a focus on rural political activism in Russia and Western business investment in Russia. In his personal life, Zack enjoys just about anything outdoors, such as a good game of pick up soccer or hiking with friends. He is an avid traveler and hopes that many more returns to Russia, many more pelmeni, banya visits and continued dialogues with Russians, are in his future!

Lexi Jovanovic is a second year dual-degree M.A. student in Global Policy Studies and Russian, Eastern European, and Eurasian Studies at UT Austin. A Texas native, Lexi spent time in New Mexico, France, Singapore, and Wyoming before returning to pursue her Master's degree. She has a B.A. in International Security Studies from the University of Oklahoma, and her research interests include Russian foreign policy, post-Soviet transition, and intelligence studies. In her free time, she enjoys baking, hiking, existential contemplation, and Gossip Girl.

Luis Camarena Kuchle is an undergraduate at UT Austin majoring in International Relations and Global Studies, with a focus on international political economy and European Studies. He was born and raised in Mexico City and had the opportunity to move to Austin five years ago to pursue a better education. Luis is also very interested in sustainability and economic development, and is a cinephile, big soccer fan, and avid traveler.

Season 2 Here We come! Mon, 26 Aug 2019 14:00:00 -0500 e0cb2c7a-715e-4bb4-8c80-561be8e256ce Howdy dear listeners! Matt here. I wanted to quickly update you guys on my summer and l let you guys know about why I’m so excited for our second season of The Slavic Connexion... Howdy dear listeners!

I wanted to quickly update you guys on my summer and l let you guys know about why I’m so excited for our second season of the Slavic Connexion.

My summer was a whirlwind of travel, research, and just outright fun. Almost all of it was spent in Ukraine. In the first half of the summer I tagged along with four UT undergrads, including our magnificent co-host Lauren Nyquist, in a project about social media, youth, and political participation in Ukraine in light of the 2019 presidential election titled Democratic Dialogues. We traveled to four major cities in the country and conducted focus groups with students, activists, and political actors. Right now we are writing with the goal of getting our article published in a scholarly journal. When that happens you guys will definitely hear.

The second half of summer I spent in Lviv, Ukraine studying the Ukrainian language and engaging with Ukrainian people and culture. I also continued my research on the history and effectiveness of civic education in Ukraine. In short I learned a ton and had a wonderful time doing it.

But now for the real reason you’re reading this post. All of us here at the Slavic Connexion have had a packed summer to see the world, recharge, and come back to the microphone with fresh minds, hearts, and ears. I think it’s safe to say that the interest from the community in this podcast has inspired us to do everything for you guys. We’ve ruminated on the successes and failures of our inaugural season and look forward to making this one even more fun than the last. I for one can say that I’m more confident in my abilities and have a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t when interviewing and conversing on air.

I think I speak for everyone when I express how excited we are to expand our community and involve as many of you as possible. We are particularly excited about all the new grads and undergrads who want to get involved – please don’t stop reaching out!

Best regards,

P.S. If you’re curious, feel free to check out this this interview I recently gave in Russian about the origins of my interest in the area, among other things.

Connexion is happening... Thank you to our guests! Wed, 13 Mar 2019 15:00:00 -0500 4418c749-1119-4b70-8fc4-bdf25ffe4714 A brief account of our progress and thank yous to our guests! Firstly thanks to all of our early-stage listeners and supporters both at the University of Texas and all the way around the globe (apparently in Switzerland and Norway too). You guys are the best, and we truly appreciate all of you. We're totally underdogs in podcasting, but we will prevail! Hopefully.

We had some amazing guests last week--some of those episodes are already up, but some are yet to be produced and/or rendered, depending on if it's just audio or audio and video. What we're discovering as we go is the ridiculous frustrations of our technological limitations. Our producer's internet was down for the last three days, so new videos could only be upoaded to YouTube while on campus! And that's just not happening when we're going from class to class and sneaking interviews into the breaks. But we do what we can and the iimportant thing--as one Texas bumper sticker put it--is that we PERSIST! So we're persisting, and we hope you all will persist with us.

Just a quick shout-out and thank you to a few of the guests we've had so far:

1) Dr. Vladislav Beronja has the honor (and our eternal gratefulness) for being the FIRST professor to guest star on the show. His episode is not up yet unfortunately, due to additional post-production that has to happen, but we're so thankful that he agreed (with enthusiasm, I might add) to show his support for this nascent project. Thank you!

2) Our first guest from the Clements Center, Dr. Mark Pomar was so gracious and generous with his time, agreeing to participate though he is almost weekly featured on Voice of America TV. Surely, our operation was a little on the quaint and rustic side, but we're trying. Dr. Pomar was a fantastic speaker; his breadth of knowledge and experience is overwhelming! I was blown away, and to be honest, intimidated (who wouldn't be?). But it was funny with him because we could've recorded several episodes and would never have run out of subject matter. We had so much extra material, we were wondering afterwards what to do with it all. Trailers and bonuses obviously.

3) Dr. Mary Neuburger is just hands-down the best not only because she buys us all cookies (they're so good) but because she has an engaging way of explaining Balkan history to someone (like me) who knows next to nothing about the Balkan region. We thank her for her time and her support to all of us students--the best director we could ask for!

4) Dr. Mark Lawrence is from the History Department at UT, and as a Vietnam War expert, maybe some of you might be thinking he's not the best fit for The Slavic Connexion. But we'd like to diplomatically disagree. I personally had such a great time talking with Professor Lawrence and felt like I could've talked to him for hours. His humble manner though he definitely knows more than I ever will is so refreshing and inspiring. I felt lucky to have been able to interview him, and we're so thankful that he took the time out of his insane schedule to be on the show.

5) Dr. Bella Jordan is certainly the Siberian Sweetheart of the department. And if you listen to my interview with her (episode entitled "Don't argue with a geographer") you'll see why. She's lived and because she's lived her stories are fantastic and endless. We will definitely have her back on the show soon as the analytics don't lie--our listeners love Bella!

6) One more shout-out goes to Dr. Michael Mosser from the Government Department. One of the busiest people we've ever encountered, Dr. Mosser was kind enough to carve out forty-five minutes of his time so that my fellow host Lauren Nyquist could interview him. Lauren has nothing but praise for Dr. Mosser (as do many, many other students all over the 40 Acres of UT). So, thank you Dr. Mosser for being a fantastic professor and a part of The Slavic Connexion! (Check out his episode, "The International Purview with Michael Mosser"!)

Day 1 Sat, 02 Mar 2019 20:00:00 -0600 ff032a24-dc4b-41b0-ba45-1d0d0fb6e8d5 Day 1 of recording/filming The Slavic Connexion... a few hiccups but nothing too bad. Basically, here's how it went down... show creator Michelle and I showed up in Burdine at 1 PM on the last Friday of February, talked shop for twenty minutes (our vision for this project, what we want students to get out of it, what's the plan for weekly releases of episodes, etc.) and then we entered the Fusion Room (where the magic happens... hopefully). It's basically the plainest classroom imaginable with a nice flatscreen on one wall and computers on two ends. The problem was the unappealing glass whiteboard. Needed some work, obviously. So we started decorating. The before and after pics would have been priceless, but we only have the after.

After all was as we wanted it (almost), we started messing with technology and wires. Lots of wires. And that's when things got a bit tangled. Oh, and the camera kept running out of battery and we kept switching to Michelle's phone. But, we put our master's degree heads together and managed to figure it out. And so, by the time guest number one arrived, Dr. Vladislav Beronja, we were ready. Mostly.

All in all, good times and a decent 4 hours of recording. Next time, though, it will be better, and no one will nervously tap on the table where the microphone is sitting so that it sounds like the bottom end of the Imperial March in post-production. Just saying... :)