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A non-profit publication of the Office of the University Relations of Virginia Tech,
including The Conductor, a special section of the Spectrum printed 4 times a year

Russian students on campus

By Lynn Davis

Spectrum Volume 18 Issue 03 - September 7, 1995

Joe Loferski, associate professor, and George Stern, professor emeritus of wood construction, in Virginia Tech's Department of Wood Science and Forest Products, are playing hosts to 10 Russian students and one faculty member from Vyatka State Technical University in Kirov, Russia, which is about 700 miles northeast of Moscow.

The group arrived on campus in early July to participate in a year-long project funded by the U.S. Information Agency on wood's impact on the rejuvenation of Russian economy and life. The project is a result of Virginia Tech's agreement of cooperation with Vyatka State, signed by the late President Jim McComas and the Chancellor of Vyatka State in 1993.

Financing comes from the U.S. Information Agency's Bureau of Cultural Affairs, under the authority of the Fulbright-Hayes Act, and the President's University Student Exchange Program agreement signed by presidents George Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990. The project is administered through the Division of Continuing Education at Virginia Tech under the guidance of Senior Program Directors J.C. Gordon and David Waterman.

Greg Brown, dean of the College of Forestry and Wildlife Resources, Loferski, and Stern spent two weeks in Russia last year setting up the program. "In recent years Virginia Tech has broadened its international programs to help prepare its own students for an increasingly globalized economy," said Geza Ifju, head of the Department of Wood Science and Forest Products.

Loferski, who served as a consultant to the Russian Ministry of Culture and Vyatka State in January, inspected the wood on the famous, multi-towered Transfiguration Church on Kizhi Island in Karelia and then assisted in the evaluation of the proposed restoration. He also lectured at the university, and, in English, oriented the students who were selected to spend the year at Virginia Tech.

Stern, known to some as the "father of all nails," has been made an honorary member of the Scientific Council of Vyatka State, as a result of his activities with the Russian university.

Vytaka faculty member Alex Salenikovich, who is accompanying the students, said, "I hope that some time our university can receive some of Virginia Tech's students in exchange."

Each Russian student has been paired with a wood science professor in specialty areas: Andrey Tupongov with Bob Bush in marketing and management; Andrey Kuchin with Dan Dolan in timber engineering; Alex Kungurtsev with Loferski in timber engineering; Dmitri Piskunov with Chip Frazier in wood chemistry; Elena Kultikova with Fred Kamke in wood-based composites; Elena Kartunova with Audrey Zink in wood-based composites; Vladimir Kochkin with Fred Lamb and Dan Dolan in mechanical properties of wood; Oleg Rykov with Earl Kline in computer applications in wood processing; Victor Makarov with Mark White in wood structures and pallets; and Ekaterina Martinson with Richard Helm in wood chemistry.

Most people do not realize that the area comprising the old Soviet Russia has the world's largest forests. "However, the infrastructure and the level of technology needed to harvest, process, and turn the trees into useful products for society has not been sufficiently developed by the Russians." Loferski noted.

While on campus, each Russian student will develop an independent research project related to his/her specific area of wood products study.

"Our goal is to train future professional leaders in the utilization of wood and wood composites, which are the basic elements in the economic restructuring of the New Russian Federation," Loferski summed up. After the students return to their home country, they will have opportunities to become national leaders in their specialized fields. They will be encouraged and funded to start their own business and production facilities.