STARKVILLE, Miss.--A group of young Russians participating in the Open World program are at Mississippi State for a week to learn more about U.S. systems of participatory democracy and free enterprise.
Through Friday [Dec. 14], the five emerging leaders are examining governance at the local and state levels through a series of workshops, discussions and tours jointly organized by the university's political science and public administration department and International Institute.
"As with most exchanges, we hope the delegates visiting MSU will benefit from our tremendous expertise on campus and in turn, we hope the delegates share their knowledge and also their culture with not only faculty and students, but also the community," said Benjy Mikel, associate vice president of international programs and the institute's executive director.
While here, the group also will attend an MSU women's basketball game and tour the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tenn.
Administered by the Washington, D.C.-based Open World Leadership Center, the Open World program works to educate young political leaders from Eurasia and the Baltic States on democratic processes of local government organization, good governance and accountability.
"The fact that we were handpicked for this project speaks volumes about the university's internationalization efforts and our excellent academic offerings," said Lokesh Shivakumaraiah, interim manager of international education.
The delegation's visit is made possible by a grant proposal submitted by Shivakumaraiah and K.C. Morrison, political science and public administration department head.
Delegate sessions began Monday with a discussion about Southern and Mississippi politics. Also on the Monday schedule was a visit with Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman and other city leaders, followed by a campus program on intercollegiate athletics and a tour of the Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems.
Tuesday, the group travels to Indianola to learn more about state history and musical culture through a tour of the B.B. King Blues Museum. Other stops on the schedule include:
--A Wednesday visit to the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. In addition to topics related the governance of state transportation, the mid-week focus will be on regional state and interstate government organizations that illustrate efficient use of area resources and maintenance of accountability;
--Thursday travel to Jackson for a look at state legislative and judiciary systems, along with a tour of the Mississippi Agricultural Museum; and
--A concluding Friday program on regional economic development. Special attention will be given to the Golden Triangle Regional Airport, a widely recognized major regional hub for economic development in aviation.
"We will gain the benefit of cultural exchange with these visitors, who in addition to learning about local government will be able to observe our culture and daily lives and will engage in discussions with us about their own society and culture," Morrison said.
The Open World Leadership Center was established by Congress in 1999. Since then, more than 12,000 current and future Russian and Eurasian decision makers have been introduced to American political and civic life, as well as to their American counterparts.