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Alumni Association, Ag Department Form Cooperative Partnership

October 9, 2007

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MACOMB, IL -- Western Illinois University alumni and friends got an insider's view of the former Soviet Union during a Summer 2007 tour sponsored by Western's Alumni Association.

WIU Agriculture Professor John Carlson, who has visited Russia numerous times during his tenure, along with Associate Alumni Director Jana Knupp, led the two-week journey throughout the country. The tour had an agricultural focus and also included historical and cultural sites.

"This was a unique tour as it was the first time a tour had been organized within the University using the resources of the Alumni Association, an academic department and the Center for International Studies (CIS) at Western," Carlson explained. "This trip included a traditional Russian banquet celebration and several sites outside Moscow and St. Petersburg. A traditional tour would not have included these opportunities to visit with Russian professionals, which provided an in-depth cultural experience."

The group, which was comprised of 18 WIU alumni and friends, began their adventure in Moscow where they visited a monastery and met with Fr. Sergei, a Russian Orthodox priest who has worked with WIU personnel on economic development projects. The trip continued with tours of the Kremlin and Red Square. Following Carlson's agriculture background, the tour also included visits to a Russia farm project in Dmitro and the ACDI-VOCA office.

"It was just a great trip," said one participant. "I am grateful for this experience."

From Moscow the group traveled to Ryzan to visit the agriculture academy where Carlson is a frequent lecturer and researcher, and an orphanage where Carlson assisted setting up a livestock operation.

"We had a phenomenal experience. The majority of the group were not WIU alumni, but by weaving information about Western into the trip, they were able to learn more about the University and had a new appreciation of all that Western has to offer," Knupp said. "To travel abroad to a country such as Russia with someone like Dr. Carlson who has the knowledge of the people, culture and agriculture industry was a once-in-a-lifetime trip."

Carlson will return to Russia in March as part of a study abroad trip for Western students; this will be the fourth study abroad trip to Russia sponsored by the agriculture departmant and CIS.

The Alumni Association is currently working with other academic departments to review future collaborative trips abroad, Knupp added. Faculty interested in teaming with the Alumni Association for events and trips should contact Knupp at 309/298-1914 or e-mail

Posted By: Darcie Shinberger (
Office of University Communications & Marketing