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This page is maintained by the President of the Critical Languages of the Southeast Region (CLOSER) or their designee. If you would like to contribute to the page or add an upcoming event to the list of announcements, please contact Michelle Verbitskaya. Available job positions for critical language educators may be submitted to executive_director@ffla.us

About CLOSER

The mission of Critical Languages of Southeastern Region (CLOSER) is to promote the study and advancement of critically important and yet critically under-taught world languages in order to develop mutual understanding, cultural competence, and intersectional cooperation between educators, learners, and professionals in all fields. CLOSER aims to develop, sustain, and popularize K-16 critical language initiatives across the Southeast Region of the United States. CLOSER welcomes and actively cultivates domestic and international partners.

Board Members

President


Dr. Alla Kourova is an associate professor of TESOL and Russian at the University of Central Florida. She  graduated from Moscow State University with a Doctorate of Philosophy in Teaching Foreign Languages. She is the author of more than 50 publications on language teaching and cross-cultural communication. Dr. Kourova is a recipient of several prestige awards: National 2015 AATSEEL award for Excellence in Teaching (Post-Secondary), the University Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award, the Scholarship for Teaching and Learning Award, the Research and Teaching Incentive Program Awards. For last four years Dr. Kourova has received multiple US Department of States grants: US – Russia Dialogue Program, STARTALK grants, and Fulbright Hays-Group Grant. Dr. Kourova has received multiple US Department of States grants: US – Russia Dialogue Program, STARTALK grants, and Fulbright Hays-Group Grant. Her pedagogical credo is teaching language through culture.


Vice President

Snezhana Zheltoukhova, Ph.D., has been teaching linguistics and Russian as a world language since her graduation from Moscow (Lomonosov) State University. For a decade, she continued teaching the language and culture at Carleton College, Pomona College, Beloit College, University of Missouri-Columbia, Indiana University Bloomington, and University of Wisconsin-Madison. Currently, Zheltoukhova is an Assistant Professor of Practice and Director of Language Commons at Stetson University. Her research interests are within the field of second language acquisition and pedagogy, specifically world language tutoring, analysis of discourse and interaction, sociocultural theory, and technology-mediated language learning.



Secretary



Irina Pidberejna is a STARTALK instructor of Russian at the University of Central Florida since 2017. She has her Master’s Degree in Teaching English as a Foreign Language from the University of Alabama. She speaks Russian, Ukrainian, English and Spanish and advocates for bilingual and cross cultural opportunities in all educational settings.

 

Educational Technology Chair/Treasurer

Michelle Verbitskaya, M.A. is an Ph.D. student in Second Language Acquisition at the Ohio State University. Originally from Eastern Siberia, Russia, Michelle is a bilingual speaker of English and Russian, an instructor of Russian for STARTALK at UCF, and an instructor of Issues in Second Language Acquisition. Michelle's research interests concern L2 writing, intersections of identity, social movements, and language, teaching Russian as L2, and language ideology. For a sample of video projects, click here.


Advisor


Dr. Barry J. Morris earned a BA in Russian and political science with a specialization in international relations from Tulane University, and an MA and PhD in international relations and international political economy from Emory University. He has been a professor and university administrator in the U.S., Africa and China serving in various posts including Vice Provost, Dean and Professor of International Relations. As Senior International Officer, Chief Global Strategist at UCF, and the Board of Directors of NAFSA—Association of International Educators he has participated in the Fulbright Hays Group Project Abroad Program “Building Bridges with Language and Culture in Russia.”



  • Monday, October 03, 2022 11:33 AM | Michelle Verbitskaya (Administrator)

    An important message for high school seniors, college freshmen, and their parents!

    The University of Central Florida (UCF) wants to invite you to participate in the STARTALK (Start Talking), Russian Language Program sponsored by the National Security Agency (NSA), "How Words Shape People: Understanding Business Russian through Proverbs"

    The program consists of 4 parts:

    Part 1: January 23rd - May 23rd, 2023, 90-minute online lessons once a week.

    Part 2: June 12th-June 30th Russian Language camp. The camp will take place at UCF. Living expenses and food will be covered.

    Part 3: September 19th-April 9th, 2024. 60-minute online lessons once a week.

    Part 4: April 23, 2024. Exam and graduation.

    Russian Lessons will be led by experienced language instructors who were part of the UCF STARTALK Program for the last 6 years.

    The program is open to high school students and college freshmen in every state. Students who have successfully completed Part 1 and Part 2 of the program will have the opportunity to receive college credit hours at UCF.

    Register here (until Dec. 5, 2022): https://cah.ucf.edu/languages/startalk/ 

    If you have any questions, please contact the director of the program Dr. Kourova at Alla.Kourova@ucf.edu


  • Monday, March 21, 2022 9:46 AM | Michelle Verbitskaya (Administrator)

    We have all expressed our unequivocal condemnation of Russia’s war on Ukraine. In solidarity with those who are in Ukraine and living in fear of attack, we stand firm with the organizations who call for cutting formal ties with institutions and with those who are actively supporting the Russian war effort.   

    We want to do everything we can to show our support for Ukrainian scholars and students. At the same time, we are concerned about calls for blanket bans on the participation of individual Russians and Belarusians in scholarly events and scholarly exchanges.  

    We strongly oppose the vilification and exclusion of our Russian and Belarusian students. Banning Russians and Belarusians based solely on their citizenship or place of birth goes against our fundamental principles of scholarship, open communication, and dialogue. Such sanctions have the potential to harm those living in authoritarian regimes who are opposed to the war and are powerless to change their oppressive governments. We encourage all members of our community who stand against the war in Ukraine to come together and support all the students who are in this situation.  

    We encourage language educators and learners to watch the videos below. 

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TohPxkiO2II

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BfSZtV6qgMA

    #НетВойне

  • Wednesday, March 02, 2022 9:11 AM | Michelle Verbitskaya (Administrator)

    Last week, CLOSER's Director, Dr. Alla Kourova, and Vice President, Dr. Snezhana Zheltoukhova presented their research at the American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages (AATSEEL) conference in Philadelphia, PA. 

     

    Dr. Alla Kourova presented her work "Shaping Stereotypical Cultural Representations in an Introductory Russian STARTALK Program." Dr. Snezhana Zheltoukhova had two presentations: "Embracing Diversity in an Online Intensive Language Course" and "Videoconference as a Mediating Tool: In-class Interaction and Learner Autonomy." 

  • Wednesday, December 08, 2021 12:44 PM | Michelle Verbitskaya (Administrator)

    Learn more about the partnership between UCF Global and the Russian Program at UCF here: https://global.ucf.edu/programs/russian-studies-partnership/


  • Wednesday, December 08, 2021 12:30 PM | Michelle Verbitskaya (Administrator)

    Watch this interview with the CLOSER director, Dr. Alla Kourova, for the FusionFest, a project of the Orlando Downtown Arts District with support from Orange County Government and the Orlando Downtown Development Board.

FFLA

The Florida Foreign Language Association, Inc. is registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Contributions to FFLA are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. FFLA's tax identification number is 65-0736242.

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