To create globally active leaders of tomorrow, PSI seeks to cultivate not only students’ cognitive and intellectual skills, but also their character. The preparation PSI can offer to high-achieving, low-income high school students enables them to acquire a unique skill set that makes them very attractive for admission and financial aid at top colleges. The long-term goal for PSI is to develop and offer a two-summer sequence: students begin Russian in their home institution during sophomore year, come to UW-Madison the following summer, stay engaged during the junior year (through Russian classes and various extracurricular and distance-learning activities coordinated with the PSI), and return to Madison for a second summer before their senior year in high school. Following the completion of this sequence, we expect that participants would be well-positioned to enter any college-level Russian program at an advanced level, speeding their time to degree completion and enhancing their opportunities for participation in a study-abroad program. In addition, the PSI has developed a mentoring program for PSI alumni that attend UW-Madison: this support-network of faculty and students helps with student-retention rates at the college level, especially for first-generation students. The introduction of the PSI-Abroad program in 2015 will deepen the language and cultural immersion of participating students, which will enhance language retention and allow students to form relationships with host families and peers that could continue well after the conclusion of the program. Additionally, NSLI-Y features a strong alumni network, with over 3,800 alumni throughout the United States. Although the PSI is a pre-college program, we have long-term goals for our participants and the scope of the program.
The PSI is an inherently interdisciplinary program, as we seek to expose students to all aspects of Russian culture, history, and civilization in our efforts to build cultural competence and foster cross-cultural dialogue. One of the advantages of using Alexander Pushkin as our core topic and focus lies in the way that his life, works, and image have touched not just the literary tradition, but all aspects of Russian arts, history and culture. Through Pushkin, the PSI is able to reach a student population that is traditionally underrepresented at the college level, but even more so in Eurasian area studies. We believe that by developing this new population of incoming college freshmen and nurturing critical thinking skills, advanced language ability, and an international outlook, the Pushkin Summer Institute prepares students for both the challenges of college life and the demands of a globalized economy.