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Why Michigan?

Are you curious about the career possibilities that a degree in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies from the University of Michigan provides? Here are examples of what a few alumni have done since leaving U-M, including insights for current and prospective students on what to do with a REES degree.

Mike MacQueen (photo: ice.gov)

How can your Michigan REES M.A. degree be useful?

Here's Mike MacQueen's answer: "The broad exposure to East European culture, politics, economics and history in my REES M.A. program provided a solid foundation for my past work focusing on the investigation of WWII crimes in Poland, Belarus and the Baltic States. I am still drawing on this now as I investigate crimes committed during the wars in the former Yugoslavia. Moreover, over the course of my career, I have relied on connections and contacts made during my REES studies. When making a recent hiring decision, I’ve also have had the satisfaction of knowing that the candidate with a Michigan REES background was someone with a solid and sound background."

Mike MacQueen (M.A. REES '83) used his language and area studies training during his 20+ years at the Department of Justice, most recently serving as chief of investigative research in the Office of Special of Special Investigations. In 2008, he moved to Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the Department of Homeland Security, where he continues to work on Balkan cases. More about his work from The New York Times.

Jill Dougherty (BA Slavic Languages and Literatures '70) began working at CNN in 1983, where she was a foreign affairs correspondent and Moscow Bureau Chief from 1997-2005. After leaving the network in 2013, she has been a fellow at Harvard and the Kennan Institute.

Dougherty delivered the keynote lecture, "Found in Translation: My Life, Thanks to Michigan," during the International Institute Bicentennial Symposium in March 2017. Watch the full video here, or see below for her reasons for choosing to study Russian at Michigan.

Edwin Paxson (MA REES ’93, JD Law ’92) on using Russian Studies after graduation

Edwin Paxson received a dual graduate degree in Law and Russian and East European Studies from the University of Michigan in 1993. He gave a CREES Noon Lecture on April 4, 2012 titled, "Beyond the Tower: What Happens When Your Grad School Application Essay Comes True." To hear his reflection on the trajectory of a Michigan grad over the last 25 years, as experienced through a Russian studies major and subsequent legal career, watch the video.

Edwin Paxson earned baccalaureate degrees in mathematics and Russian civilization at the University of California, Los Angeles. At the University of Michigan, he pursued an M.A. in Russian and East European Studies concurrently with a J.D. degree, and also served as articles editor for the Michigan Journal of International Law. Upon graduation, he relocated to Russia, first joining the American Bar Association’s Rule of Law Initiative as they worked on the implementation of new Russian bankruptcy law. Paxson then became a consultant for the International Finance Corporation, overseeing legal aspects of IFC's land reform program in six provinces of Russia. He then spent seven years with Davis Polk & Wardwell, a premier international law firm. In 2003, he returned to the International Finance Corporation, where he currently serves as Global Lead Counsel for Manufacturing and Chemicals.

Martha Loerke (MA REES '90) offers career advice for area studies students

Martha Loerke (MA REES '90), director of Scholarship Programs at the Open Society Institute/Soros Foundations, came to Ann Arbor to share her insights on career opportunities.

Her own career has included work as program coordinator for Senior Fulbright Fellowships at the Council for International Exchange of Scholars and as program manager for Muskie/Freedom Support Act Graduate Fellowships at the Institute for International Education. In 1994, she became deputy director of Network Scholarship Programs at the Open Society Institute/Soros Foundations; in 1995, she was appointed director of this OSI department. In this position, Martha oversees OSI programs offering 800 humanities and social science scholarships annually in over 30 countries via open, merit-based competitions. She directs offices in New York and London, and coordinates global program administration with 30 local partners. Although she focused primarily on countries of the former Soviet Union during her career with CIES, IIE, Fulbright, and the Open Society Institute, her work is currently expanding to include Burma, Cambodia, and Laos; as well as Palestine, Turkey, and Afghanistan. She is also starting to look at climate change fellowships for Sub-Saharan Africa.

Listen to her CREES Brown Bag lecture (February 4, 2009) on "Career Paths and Opportunities for Students Specializing in Area Studies" audio

Stephanie DeGroote (BA REES '85) talks about journalism career in Moscow

Following completion of her BA in REES, Stephanie DeGroote traveled to Moscow, where she worked as a free-lance journalist and with ABC News and witnessed the final years and break up of the Soviet Union. 

Currently a producer with Sky News in London, she returned to the University of Michigan this year as a 2008-09 Knight-Wallace Fellow. During her visit, she gave a CREES Brown Bag lecture on January 14, 2009.

Listen to her lecture, "Fear and Loathing in Moscow: Covering 11 Time Zones and 15 Republics during Times of Great Change, 1989-1995" audio

Visit our Alumni pages to read more about what students who completed REES or related degrees at the University of Michigan have done since graduation.