Voronezh States University is developing a collection of inspiring alumni stories to be presented on its website. These stories share alumni work achievements, reflections on the VSU experience, and service contributions. VSU graduates find success and fulfillment in every walk of life, and the thread that joins them is how their VSU education prepared them for career success.
Learn about the growing community of VSU alumni.
Professor Stephen Hagen (UK)
How Studying at Voronezh State University Transformed my Life
Given the brief time I spent as a student at VSU in the 1970s, the impact on my career has been proportionally enormous. When I first arrived in Voronezh, it was 1975 and I was a postgraduate student studying at Durham University (UK) on an exchange programme with Russia. It was essential that I came to Russia because I had chosen to write a thesis on the short stories of Andrei Bitov – the man who was later to become the famous author of ‘Pushkin’s House’ – and I needed to undertake the primary research on the spot in Russia, possibly (if lucky) getting to meet Bitov himself.
I should add here it was very difficult for British students to study in the Soviet Union during this part of the 20th Century simply because of the Cold War and because of mutual suspicion that arose from it. Only a limited number of British students were selected to study on the USSR-UK exchange programme.
In truth, I had no idea how Voronezh came to be my place of study in Russia: it was selected for me by Soviet Education Ministry officials and no reason was given. I realized later that this was probably due to the connection between my research topic (Russian Short Stories) and Platonov, who is, of course, from Voronezh which is his city of birth – but the connection seemed quite vague to me, a student living in the UK, as the two writers lived in different periods of the 20th Century and under very different political and cultural circumstances. Fortunately, I am pleased to say that nowadays the importance of Platonov and his writing have become much more widely recognized around the world, with particular importance now given rise to the International Platonov Festival, of which the City of Voronezh can rightly be proud!
In fact, my time at VSU has proved very decisive in my career development for a number of reasons, both past and present. In the past, thanks to the assistance of VSU, I got to meet the living author Andrei Bitov on a komandirovka, which enabled me to understand the author’s own interpretation of the symbolism present in his writing. I also discovered that several of his short stories were in fact chapters in a larger novel, which completely changed my perception of his writing. At VSU I was able to undertake all the necessary background reading from primary source material in the VSU academic library. My thesis became radically different – and much more accurate – finally adding up to an opus magnum of 90,000 words – which made a significant contribution to our, western, knowledge and awareness of a significant Russian author.
There are, however, certain opportunities which come your way which can transform your life forever – and this was the case with my study-time at VSU. One thing leads to another: without the experience of studying at VSU, I would never have been appointed to a University lectureship in Russian Studies in Newcastle upon Tyne. The University required its lecturers in Russian (understandably) to have spent time in Russia and to have first-hand knowledge of life, culture and the language. Without studying at VSU, I just wouldn’t have had street credibility to teach Russian to my students and the Newcastle job not only gave me an opening into a valuable academic career (which I still have) but I also married there and had my family.
What is curious about life is that some of your early experiences can turn out to be highly valuable much later in life without you even being aware of it. My experience at VSU – and particularly the knowledge of Russian Language that I acquired there – also turned out to be vital to my second career much later in life.
Due to a career change I stopped being a Russian lecturer in 1999 – 20 years ago – and became a university manager instead, first as a Pro-Rector and then a Rector. However, my British University merged with another in 2013 and my job ‘disappeared’ in a Ministerial reorganisation of Higher Education – through no fault of my own!
What do you do in these circumstances? All was not lost. Out of the blue, I had a phone-call from an old friend called Nikolai, who said ‘Stephen, do you fancy working in Russia? Are you free? If so, would you like to apply for a job in St Petersburg?’. Well, it was 20 years since I had used my Russian actively and it was a bit rusty. But I applied to be a Pro-Rector in St Petersburg and was successful: without a knowledge of Russian, I simply could not have applied turned out to be good enough to work in Russia. Without that early foundation in Russian acquired at VSU, this opportunity for an exciting job in St Petersburg would not have come my way.
My experience has shown that all knowledge is useful, but you often don’t know at what point in your career will become essential to your success. In my case, my study at VSU has proved to be valuable at both ends of my career – when I started out as a young lecturer – and also, much later, near the end of my career when I became a Pro-Rector at ITMO University. This job eventually led to an invitation to me from the Rector of VSU to join the VSU Board of Trustees. I had come full circle in my career: from VSU and back to VSU over a period of 40+ years! I recommend all students to take full advantage of the chance to study at VSU when the opportunity arises!
Dear graduates of Voronezh State University!
95 years of academic and research success of Voronezh State University has provided thousands of students with an excellent and profound education which became a solid base for their future careers. Many VSU students came from overseas, including Germany.
40 years ago, in 1973, I, a student from GDR, graduated from the Faculty of Chemistry of Voronezh State University, and memories of those years fill me with gratitude and pride. Here I received an excellent theoretical education, developed strategic thinking skills, travelled widely in Russia, met various people and came across a lot of opportunities. A good education has played an important role in my career. I got a chance to apply my knowledge when working for major German and international business companies.
My professional life has taken me to many countries, including Russia and Voronezh in particular. As a member of VSU board of trustees I try to incorporate my foreign experiences and contacts into Voronezh State University development and success. It has become a tradition for graduates of major universities in America and Western European countries, including Germany, to express their gratitude by offering financial support to their university to ensure educational quality for future generations of students, including their children and grandchildren. I have already contributed to the VSU fund and intend to carry on supporting the university as a member of the board of the German Alumni Association of Voronezh State University (Association Deutscher Absolventender Woronesher Universität – DAWU).
I would like to encourage the graduates and future graduates of VSU to consider taking the opportunity to provide financial support for their university. The smallest contribution is appreciated. Many universities owe their high academic standards and excellent reputation to funds established by their graduates.
Take the challenge for the benefit of Voronezh University!
Graduates of the same university have always shared a sense of belonging and solidarity. For many of them the university showed new roads and opportunities. VSU graduates follow their careers all over the world. And being far from home makes you even more interested in the life of your alma mater. This year VSU launched an Endowment fund. Now graduates have a chance to express their gratitude to their university. If traditional charity is based on a stated sum, endowment gives opportunity for "lifelong money", which means the benefit of investment growth with each year. I encourage Voronezh State University graduates and friends to contribute to VSU endowment asset investments.
I spent a semester at VSU in 1988 studying Russian language as part of my degree at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh. Straight after studying in Voronezh I went on to study at one of the top-ranked universities in the world in Heidelberg, but I can honestly say that it was my time at Voronezh State University which made the greatest impression and which has shaped my life and career ever since.
Not only did I improve my Russian a thousandfold (I later worked as an interpreter for many years), but I made friendships, many of which have lasted to this day with my roommates from Russia, Georgia and England, and people from all over the former USSR, East Germany, Ghana, Mauritius, Bulgaria, and even England. There is even an unofficial alumni group of VSU alumni from 1988/89 who meet several times a year in London, coordinated by a VSU graduate from Bishkek!
In my current role, I am fortunate to be responsible for encouraging students to study abroad and for supporting students who come to Australia to study. I can honestly say that I find this work so rewarding because I hope that every student I work with now will gain as much from their overseas studies as I did during my time in Voronezh where I learned adaptability, compassion, intercultural skills and an appreciation for the important things in life. Voronezh is where I grew up and where a little part of my soul was born.
I was fortunate to spend the formative years of my academic career at Voronezh State University. VSU was among the first Russian universities that adopted the bachelor/master system of education in the early 1990s, and that gave me an opportunity to “sample” multiple disciplines to find what drives me professionally and academically. Having combined concentrations/majors in economics, finance, and human resource management prepared me to tackle most diverse issues that business education sets to address. Being exposed to a number of visiting faculty from leading academic institutions globally – something that Voronezh State University has been doing for over twenty years – has motivated me to seek additional opportunities in the leading universities abroad, and ultimately determined my path in life.
My experience in the U.S. is rather typical for many Russian students who chose to apply themselves internationally: first, an exchange student at Kent State University; second, a doctoral student at Case Western Reserve University; third, a professor’s career back at Kent State. What is perhaps less typical is the preparedness for such experiences that I attribute fully to my years at Voronezh State University. Looking back, I realize that I owe much of my success in the U.S. academic environment to the people at Voronezh State University – and for that I am eternally grateful.
VSU – the place, where I learned to love Russia
I first came to Voronezh in 1995. I was then 17 years old. Nothing special, just a Chinese guy who came from Siberia to get to know the true Russia and learn its beautiful, though difficult, language.
I fell in love with Voronezh the moment I came here. Everything was great – the place, the climate, the people. Voronezh is known to be a city of students with its population of nearly a million people and over 20 universities. I knew exactly what I wanted, and I enrolled with the Faculty of Philology at Voronezh State University.
VSU is one of the leading Classic Universities in Russia with a century-long history. Its academic staff are highly professional and its education programmes are of a high standard. VSU not only gave me the chance to reach my goal and learn Russian, but also became a true home for me, where I could develop my personality and determine what I wanted to do in life.
I've spent 10 years at VSU which have been full of joy and happiness. For me, VSU is primarily the people who work and study there. I remember them all very well, their kindness and helpfulness. I was really surprised at how patient the teachers were with foreign students. Attending classes, taking part in various cultural events, getting to know local people, I gradually became interested not only in the language itself, but also in Russian culture and traditions. I started to understand better the "Russian soul". I guess this was one of the reasons why I decided to continue my studies and enrol on a post-graduate programme at the same faculty. Apart from being educated and highly-qualified, my supervisors turned out to be really wise and kind people. Under their guidance, I not only acquired my Ph.D. degree, but also learned to conduct scientific research and carefully analyse the material.
VSU has given me great opportunities. When I was still a post-graduate student, VSU senior officers and some of the teachers decided to open a Chinese Centre at the University and Chinese language courses at several faculties. They invited me to teach Chinese and coordinate the work of the Centre. The Centre became both another step to the University's internationalisation, and an international partnership platform. And for me it became the beginning of my career.
I came back home 7 years ago. I am now working at the Faculty of Foreign Languages of Shandong University as a Russian language specialist. I use the knowledge and skills I learned at VSU to promote scientific and cultural bonds between Russia and China.
I think, thanks to VSU, Russia has become my second homeland. I will always remember the University and all my friends there. I am proud to have a VSU diploma, proud that VSU still remembers me, proud that at VSU I learned what a great country Russia is, and learned to love it.
VSU and its role in my life. A graduate's story
Voronezh State University is proud of its graduates, many of whom are talented scientists, politicians, heads of companies and organizations, and business people. Over 120 graduates of our University are now working in 90 countries all over the world.
Kirill Bakhtin is one of them. Kirill studied at the Faculty of Economics. In 2011, under the guidance of Professor Dmitry Yendovitsky, D.Sc. in Economics, he acquired a Ph.D. in Economics at the Department of Economic Analysis and Audit. He also acquired a master's degree at the New Economic School (NES, 2009), a CFA Сharterholder. Kirill worked at the Analytics Department at Merrill Lynch, URALSIB Capital and the Department of Strategic Development at OOO SIBUR, which incorporates OAO "Voronezhsintezcauchuk".
In 2014–2015 Kirill Bakhtin will be studying on the MBA programme at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) – one of the leading business schools in Asia.
Kirill told us, of his feeling about VSU, together with the knowledge and skills the University has given him.
– I am very grateful to the VSU teachers and lecturers, who contributed a lot both to my professional and personal development. Specifically, I am grateful to the members of the Faculty of Economics, and to my mentor - Rector Dmitry Yendovitsky. From my own experience I can say that VSU is indeed one of the leading universities. There are a large number of faculties, departments, and subjects to choose from, which gives the students wide opportunities. I should specifically stress the difference between the terms "opportunity" and "potential". Students should consider the university as a source of knowledge and professional skills they can use later and not as an institution wholly responsible for the education process. Quite a lot depends on the students themselves - on how much time and effort they want to spend while studying and how determined they are. VSU teachers show students how to seek complex solutions. This encourages students to get to the very depths of the problem and suggest new approaches, rather than use the readymade ones. Unlike many other universities, VSU sees its objective not only in professional training, but also in providing social activities and developing students' personality. Our University has a great history and deserves to be proud of its achievements. Among its graduates are many successful specialists and prominent scientists, such as a Nobel Prize laureate in Physics Pavel Alekseyevich Cherenkov. I feel really grateful to the University for everything it has given me and hope that it keeps developing and reaching new goals together with its students, postgraduates and teachers.
Success Story of the Economics Faculty Graduate Oksana Lukinova
Voronezh State University every year participates in various international partnership programmes with world leading universities and companies, students' and academic staff exchange programmes, and integration programmes.
Oksana Lukinova, a master's student at VSU, has completed a study course at the Kent State University Business School (USA).
– I highly appreciate the role of the VSU teachers and its Rector Dmitry Yendovitsky both in my professional career and life. I've been keen on football since I was 15, and from the moment I finished school, I knew that I wanted my future career to be connected with finance and football. During my first year at the University I didn't quite see how to connect economics and football. Now I understand that it was in that time that I got the basic knowledge which determined my future professional development. After graduation, I enrolled on the master's programme supervised by Dmitry Yendovitsky, and decided that my master's thesis would be about football. I thought no one would take me seriously, but the Department members and the University supported my idea. I was so involved in my research, that I decided to keep working on it studying on a post-graduate programme. Those two years were the hardest, yet extremely exiting. To those who are considering becoming a post-graduate student, I would recommend choosing a research problem that you are really exited about. The University will provide all the necessary support and motivation. The Department of Economic Analysis and Audit always helped me to take part in international conferences and publish my works in prestigious journals. I'd also like to point out the high standards at VSU, so I always felt confident, presenting the results of my research. One of the brightest moments of that period was working at the FC Schalke 04 in Germany – something I could only have dreamed of! A year after acquiring my Ph.D. I decide to move to England – the county that invented football. London School of Business and Finance is one of the VSU's partners, so I enrolled on its MBA programme. The first thing I did was to buy a season ticket to the games of Manchester United. Later I wrote my thesis on «Football Financial Fair». I also met with ex-Chief Officer of the FA’s Finance Sub-Committee, the Chairman of Portsmouth Football Club, and the leading football lawyer. It is not easy to find a job in the football industry in England, but I am determined to reach my goals and no obstacle can stop me. In September 2014 I got a job at Ernst & Young (EY) – one of the Big Four. This year there were 22 000 applications all over England and only 600 vacancies. Working in the EY is a unique opportunity to develop both as a professional and as a personality. And it brings me a bit closer to the Football Association. And for all this I am highly grateful to VSU, the Department of Economic Analysis and Audit and its members who helped me to gain knowledge and skills.
Tran Thi Hoang Yen
There are two things I like most in my University: my teachers and festivals and concerts for international students. I really admire my teachers, who are competent, enthusiastic and helpful. Interesting, joyful concerts and festivals every year make me feel that I’m not alone; the faculty cares about international students. I will never forget a part of my life in this University, where I get the knowledge, have a lot of friends and realize my dream: to become a teacher.
My time at VSU was culturally rich and a lot of fun. I studied Russian at the Institute for International Education, on a programme designed specially for foreign students learning Russian. The teachers there were real characters and made the lessons enjoyable...especially the Russian Folk Songs classes, which have proved to be very useful in subsequent camping trips! The course included many excursions to places of cultural interest in the Voronezh area...and, best of all, a huge Maslenitsa blini party - Russians sure know how to make pancakes. Through this department I had a chance to meet lots of students from many different countries - so it was a real international experience. I was also given the opportunity to teach spoken English classes at the English Philology Department, which, along with all the fascinating insights I gained during my time at VGU, meant that I couldn’t resist returning to Russia after finishing university to work as an English teacher. Mother Russia gets into your soul!
I really enjoyed my experience here in Voronezh State University. I studied at the Faculty of History and I improved my Russian at the specially designed VSU language course. The language course was real fun with a great combination of communication and language theory. During that year in Voronezh I got to see a lot of the beautiful places in Voronezh region and most of all I met my wife Natasha.
I think it’s very enjoyable to study here at VSU as there are many students from different nationalities of the world. Living in a hostel among them is an opportunity to learn something new, interesting and useful.
My time in Voronezh State University was one of my best times abroad. I met a lot of good and friendly people (Russians and foreigners). It was the most helpful thing I could have done to improve my Russian and I got to know real Russian nice people. My best subject was, of course, Russian songs, I can still sing most of them with joy and pleasure. The teacher was wonderful and my classmates were fantastic as well. I could learn the real Russian soul through the songs and their beautiful culture and thoughts. I wish I could repeat that time again and again and again. Many thanks to Russian people and to Voronezh State University.