After Lewis & Clark

We love to hear from our former students of Russian!

We recently heard from some of them and we want to share their stories with you. (If you are one of our alumni and you wish to send us a story or update your old one, please e-mail Maria Hristova:

In order by year of graduation:

  • Valery Perry ’20

    SOAN major, Russian minor


    My name is Val and I’m a senior SOAN major/Russian minor.  Being involved with LC’s Russian department has been a huge highlight of my college career from Russian club to studying in Saint Petersburg, to writing my senior thesis on Russian Dual Language Immersion education.

  • Rosemary Arends ’19

    Computer Science/Mathematics Major, Russian minor

    Growing up in Moscow, Russia, Rosemary was introduced to Russian culture at a young age and instantly felt a connection. In fact, the prospect of studying Russian was the driving force behind her decision to attend Lewis & Clark College. From relearning the alphabet to analyzing Russian film, Rosemary has enjoyed her coursework and experience in the Russian Department at Lewis & Clark. She was able to study abroad in Saint Petersburg during Summer 2017 and absolutely fell in love with the city’s bright lights and big bridges. Rosemary yearns to return to Russia and, while she is currently planning to stay in Portland for a bit after graduation, she is excited at the prospect of returning to Russia and Central Asia in the near future.

  • Ostin Merkle-Lawler ’19

    Ostin Merkle-Lawler
    History major, Russian minor

    Ostin recently graduated from Lewis & Clark College in Spring 2019 with a major in history and minor in Russian language. Ostin was first initially drawn to Russian history at a young age when he read about the Eastern Front in World War II, and then became even more interested in the history of the late Russian Empire, revolutionary history, and the early Soviet period. 

    From studying abroad in St. Petersburg in the Spring of 2018 to participating in a summer language program the year before, and supporting Russian-speaking renters with the Community Alliance of Tenants (CAT) in Portland, OR, learning Russian opened many opportunities for Ostin to delve further into his passions for history, community, and international exchange. After returning from studying abroad in St. Petersburg, Ostin began research on his senior thesis on the history of far-right Russian Fascist emigres in Harbin, a former Russian rail colony, during the 1920s and early 1930s. That same year, Ostin also led and helped organize the L&C Russian Club to hold cultural and language events. 

    While living and working in Moscow, Ostin plans to continue his studies of Russian language and Russian history. He is also excited to spend much of this time meeting new people and traveling, and can’t wait to see what comes next! 

  • Jack H. Penrod ’19

    World Languages Major (German/Russian), Political Science Minor

    Jack H. Penrod 19’, World Languages Major (German/Russian), Political Science Minor

    Before his final year of high school, the only foreign language which Jack knew well was German, which he had been learning since 2011. Then, during his senior year, he began watching documentaries about the history of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, sparking his interest in Russian culture.  While a freshman, he often heard his Belarusian roommate and Russian neighbor speaking in Russian, and felt compelled to begin learning the language himself.  After having taught himself the Cyrillic alphabet and some simple phrases, in the summer of 2016 Jack travelled to the Northern (Arctic) Federal University in Arkhangelsk to complete a language intensive program.  The experience proved to be very positive, and it became clear to him that he wanted to officially incorporate Russian into his academic studies.  After graduation, Jack plans to return to his hometown in Southern California, but intends to someday soon return to Russia, to cross the country via the Trans-Siberian Railway, to traverse the volcanoes of Kamchatka, and to reunite with his comrades.

  • Justin Schaefer ’18

    Computer Science Major, Russian Minor

    Before coming to Lewis & Clark, Justin knew almost nothing about the Russian language, culture, or history beyond what he had read in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. He decided to study Russian in college almost on a whim, as there was a foreign language requirement and Russian seemed like an interesting option. However, within weeks of his first Russian class, he fell in love with the language and discovered that the culture and history of Russia was even more interesting than he had expected. Unfortunately, Justin was unable to study abroad in Russia during his time at Lewis & Clark, due to switching majors at the end of his sophomore year, but he hopes to visit Russia and its neighboring countries at least once in his life. After graduating, Justin will stay in Portland to work as a software analyst for Huron Consulting, and while he will not immediately be using Russian in his career, he wants to keep up his language skill in his free time.

  • Aaron Schimmel ’18

    History major, Russian minor

    Aaron Schimmel is currently a PhD student in Jewish History at Stanford University. His research interests include nationality, language politics, and the relationship between traditional religious Judaism and Zionism in the late Russian Empire. He enjoys continuing to study Russian language at Stanford and hopes his research will soon take him to Russia. 

    Aaron’s interest in Russian began when he picked up Aleksander Solzhenitsyn’s novel Cancer Ward. After reading Solzhenitsyn he began to explore other Russian writers, feeling drawn towards their work, and developed an interest in learning the language in which this literature were originally written. In addition to wanting to learn the language, he also began to explore the historical context that produced the literature. With interests in Russian literature and history, choosing to study Russian at Lewis & Clark was an easy decision. 

    Upon returning to Lewis & Clark from his  study abroad program in St. Petersburg, Russia, Aaron began leading first-year conversation groups, which he did through his Senior year. He spent his Senior year researching and writing an honors thesis in history which explored the political and ideological roles of Yiddish and Hebrew among Jews in the late Russian Empire and Soviet Union.

  • Jessica Meyerzon ’17

    International Affairs and Foreign Languages Major (Spanish/Russian)

     Growing up in the United States with Ukrainian parents, Jessica always had a deep interest in Eastern European and Russian culture. At Lewis & Clark College, she decided to improve her Russian language skills and learn more about her family’s heritage and her own identity. Jessica became heavily involved in the Russian department and was President of the Russian Club for three years. She led and organized cultural events for club members who wanted to practice language skills and immerse themselves in Russian culture. In her junior year, she was also the Co-Chair for the Eastern European region at Lewis & Clark’s International Fair, where she choreographed a dance that included elements from a variety of Eastern European folk dances, and cooked traditional food for the student body.

    In addition to her interest in Russian culture, Jessica’s interest in political affairs led her to work on several projects during her junior and senior year with the U.S. Embassy of Moscow as a Virtual Student Foreign Service Intern. In this role, she assisted the Public Affairs Office with the investigation of the social media-consumption habits of Russian citizens, providing insight on their general interests and motivations. She also worked with the Political Office in analyzing current media, in both English and Russian, to discern the context of Russia’s engagement with foreign countries.

    Jessica hopes to develop cross-cultural relations and ultimately foster diplomatic exchange between the U.S. and Eastern Europe. Currently, she works as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) in Baranovichi, Belarus. She teaches English courses at Baranovichi State University, gives lectures on American culture in local schools, and leads an English Club at the local library. Jessica is glad that working as an ETA will allow her to continue practicing the kind of culture-centered diplomacy that she plans to pursue as a lifelong career.

  • Joseph Walsh ’17

    Computer Science/Mathematics Major, Russian minor

    Joe initially became interested in Russia through his love of Russian literature and history.  After two years of taking Russian, he spent a semester abroad in Saint Petersburg.  Joe graduated with a major in Computer Science & Mathematics, and a minor in Russian.  He is currently a student at Cornell Law School, where he is writing a journal note about Russian territorial claims in the Arctic.  This summer he will return to Portland to work as a summer associate for an intellectual property law firm.

  • Sophia Freuden ’16

    Magna Cum Laude, International Affairs Major, Russian Minor

    As an international Affairs Major, Sophia was drawn to the complicated but important role that Russia plays in world affairs; she was further drawn into the language and the culture through the department’s classes. Sophia became deeply involved in the Russian Program at Lewis & Clark, and led conversation groups with first year students beginning her sophomore year. She also spent a semester in St. Petersburg in the language intensive program there, where she earned a 4.0 GPA. Sophia also earned the Gilman Scholarship for Overseas Studies and the Oregon Consular Corps Scholarship for Undergraduate Study of International Affairs during her time at Lewis & Clark. In addition to her involvement with the Russian Club, she was a dedicated member of student government, serving on the Student Rights & Responsibilities Committee the entirety of her time at LC.Although very successful in the classroom, Sophia has always sought out real-world experience. Sophia recently completed a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Kazan, Russia, but only after completing two separate internships in Washington, D.C.—one at the U.S. Department of State, and another at the American Academy of Diplomacy.

    Sophia currently works as a legal assistant at a private criminal defense firm in Portland. She is hoping to use her knowledge of the law with her interest in studying cyber crime and informational warfare between the U.S. and Russia on the graduate level. Wherever her future career takes her, Sophia’s love of Russia will be a key part of her professional life.

  • Sara “Scout” Mills,’16

    Self-Designed Russian Major

    At Lewis & Clark, Scout self-designed a major that allowed her to combine her love of Russia, her love of literature, and her love of history.  Currently, she is an MA student at NYU preparing to write her thesis on nationalism and national identity in various spheres of Russian pop culture; she received the prestigious Stephen Cohen Fellowship to attend NYU’s MA program in Russian studies. Her general research interests are media, music, crime, and nationalism as it has developed in Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union.  In addition to studying, Scout teaches intermediate Russian to NYU students and dedicates her free time to drawing and painting. 

    Scout has known that she wanted to study Russian since she was five years old. But she didn’t know why she wanted to study it until she came to know Russian literature, whose “depiction of struggle as something one can embrace and find beauty within” inspired her to learn the language and the culture. Although literature remains important to Scout, through her trips to Russia and her coursework, Scout has discovered a new love – Russian history and cultural studies. 

    As part of the major, she wrote a penetrating Senior Research Thesis on Russian criminal identity, as expressed in tattoos and songs, and history of the Gulag in the Late-Soviet period.  

     Following LC, Scout received the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Fellowship, and spent nine months in the subarctic town of Ukhta at Russia’s northern outpost for oil and gas education, Ukhta State Technical University, teaching English to Russian and international students. During her stay she traveled to nearly ten different Russian cities and was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to travel around Serbia for a month on the way home, which expanded her interest in Russian to an interest in Slavic languages in general. 

    Scout’s time at LC was full of other interests and activities, and these continue to inform and enrich her life. In addition to her studies, Scout was an active member of the Russian Club, a participant and coordinator in APOCALIPS Slam Poetry Club, and worked in KLC Student Radio. Her artwork was accepted and displayed during the William Stafford Symposium. She was the recipient of numerous honors, including the President’s Scholarship at LC.

  • Tadhg Fendt ’14

    Economics major & Russian minor

    Tadhg was a recipient of the Boren Scholarship which support undergraduate study abroad in areas of the world that are critical to U.S. interests, such as Russia. As part of this scholarship Tadhg was required to work for the government at least for one year. He served at the Defense Department in Washington D.C., focusing on the issues of big data and business intelligence. He learned several new programming languages at this Department, and in September 2015 took a job with a software company in Milwaukee, WI called Red Arrow Labs. Recently Tadhg accepted a new job at the ECONorthwest, a consulting firm in Portland, Oregon, where he works as a research analyst. Tadhg hopes to go to grad school in one or two years in a social science research field.

  • Ana Frigo ’14

    International Affairs major and Russian minor

    During her study at Lewis & Clark, Ana was accepted into Middlebury College Russian Summer School, and the following Fall she spent a semester studying Russian at St. Petersburg State University (Russia). She taught English in St. Petersburg (Russia) for several months after her graduation from Lewis & Clark, and later she applied and was accepted for a Master’s degree program at University College London for Political Analysis.This Program provides an opportunity to study political and social developments in post-communist Eastern Europe, the western Balkans and most parts of the former Soviet Union. Ana hopes to work in research, policy analysis or the NGO sector after her graduation from her Master’s Program.

  • David Salkowski ’14

    Music Composition major, Russian minor
    David graduated from Lewis & Clark in 2014 as a Pamplin Fellow with a major in Music Composition and a minor in Russian Studies. After graduation, David worked at the nonprofit radio station, All Classical Portland, while also active as a music educator through Music Access Project Portland and Portland Youth Symphony. 

    In 2015, David began graduate study in musicology at Princeton University, where he is currently a PhD candidate. In addition to musicology, David is also engaged in the Slavic Department and the Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies at Princeton. David’s research focuses on music, aesthetics, and religion in Late Imperial Russia, and his dissertation explores the role of music in negotiating meanings of Russian Orthodoxy between church, state, and intelligentsia in this period. David is also dedicated to performance and has worked with musicians both in Portland and in Princeton to stage works by the Russian émigré composer Arthur Lourié.
    David’s work is based on archival research in Moscow, St. Petersburg, New York, Washington DC, and Basel, and he has received grants from the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS) and the Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies. He has also received a fellowship from the Fulbright Foundation to conduct research in St. Petersburg for the 2018-19 academic year.

Calling all Russian alumni! What have you been up to since graduation? Start an interesting job? Discover a hidden talent? Used your liberal arts experience and degree to better the world? Adopt a cat? We’d love to know!