Hudson Star-Observer (Hudson, WI)
Posted on September 23, 2005
By Margaret A. Ontl
A group of Russian business women with an assortment of careers and experience were guests in the Hudson area Sept. 10-18 through a Library of Congress program called Open World.
Locally the Hudson Daybreak Rotary club hosted and facilitated their visit. The theme for the program was Women in Leadership.
It was a whirlwind week of business, personal and cultural experiences the women will likely never forget. The group toured the Emerald Dairy in Baldwin and Xcel Energy’s hydro plant in St. Croix Falls. They also made visits to universities, women-owned businesses in Hudson, the Twin Cities and the Mall of America.
Maria Sokolova, 22, is the public relations manager for a 220,000 circulation weekly paper in St. Petersburg. Professionally she wanted to learn about more about public relations and marketing to take home ideas on how to promote her newspaper so it would stand apart from the competition.
“On a personal level, I wanted to see the way people live, what they think about and what their knowledge and attitude is toward Russia,” said Sokolova. “Staying with host families is great so we can see what life is like.”
Svetlana Al-Shamiri, 32, is the advertising manager of the Bison Company in Kostov-on-Don. It is an agricultural equipment dealer that markets products for 30 companies. Al-Shamiri, works with marketing, advertising, public relations and product promotions at exhibitions. In addition, she is charged with analyzing the market for their products. Geographically, they are in a heavy agricultural area with a great climate for crop growth.
“I was hoping to learn more about the structure and organization of personal management as well as learn new strategies to sell the same kind of products,” said Al-Shamiri.
Personally, she wanted to learn what the average American lifestyle is like.
“I wanted to find out from the inside how American families are different,” said Al-Shamiri. “I have learned a lot from people here, and my view of the world has changed.”
Yekaterina Verkina, 30, is the financial director of a Biomarket company that sells ingredients for meat production in Valdimer, a tourism area 182 kilometers from Moscow. In her role she is the chief accountant responsible for tax reports and tracking changes in the tax law.
“I wanted to learn more about the American financial structure and the use of GAAP, (Generally Accepted Accounting Principals),” said Verkina, “including seeing the tax forms and filing systems, to learn if the GAAP system could work in my economy.” A second professional goal was to learn more about how small businesses are organized.
“My goal is to start a consulting firm with my husband, who is a lawyer specializing in international business rights,” said Verkina. “This is somewhat rare in our country and very valuable because more parties are investing there.”
Personally, Verkina was most curious about women in business.
Lyubov Kovrizhnykh, 38, is the human resource manager for a transport company in the city of Izhevsk near the Ural Mountains. In this position she organizes workers in the office and oversees many other departments.
“Since I was 16 years in education specializing in history, I wanted to compare the differences reflected in our history and yours,” said Kovrizhnykh, who particularly enjoyed visiting the Montessori school and UW-River Falls.
Personally she wanted to learn from women in business how they succeed as well as learn about family relations.
Collectively, the five business women, ages 22-38, praised the program and the Rotary Club for organizing the trip.
Locally, host families included Stewart and Vicky Erickson, Chuck and Heidi Whiting, Hollis and Sylvia Grubb, John and Laura Arthur, and Marlys Anderson.
The quintet used a translator from Maplewood as well as their facilitator, Elena Dmitriva, from Moscow who is a teacher at Moscow State University. The visit was customized to reflect each member’s interest.
Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, a noted Russia expert, provided the vision for Open World to Members of Congress in April 1999. Congress created the program as a pilot project one month later and charged the Library of Congress with administering it. In late 2000, Congress authorized the establishment of a permanent center to house Open World. What is now the Open World Leadership Center opened its doors on the premises of the Library of Congress in October 2001. In February 2003, Congress made the other New Independent States and the Baltics eligible for Open World exchanges, and expanded the program with Russia to include cultural leaders. This and more information about the program can be found online athttp://www.openworld.gov
[Reprinted with Permission]