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Alumni Profiles

The alumni spotlighted here have kindly offered us impressions on how their Slavic major or minor impacted them as well as updates about their current careers. If you would like to be featured on this page, send your story to

Jessica Zychowicz, Ph.D 2016

Dr. Jessica Zychowicz is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Alberta in the Contemporary Ukraine Studies Program at the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (CIUS). Most recently, she was a U.S. Fulbright Scholar (2017-2018) based at Kyiv-Mohyla University teaching visual culture while researching the cultural history of computing technology in Kyiv. Her first monograph, Superfluous Women: Feminism, Art, and Revolution in Twenty-First c. Ukraine (U-Toronto Press 2020) is in progress at University of Toronto Press. She is co-editing a series at the academic journal Krytyka on questions of race and postcolonialism. Dr. Zychowicz was also a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Toronto Munk School of Global Affairs and earned her Ph.D. at the University of Michigan in 2016. She is a member of the D.C. based creative collective of artists, writers, and curators, Atlantika Collective.

Joseph Holberg, Cultures and Literatures of Eastern Europe Minor, 2010

I received a B.S. in Economics in 2010 and a minor in Culture and Literature of Eastern Europe.  [Currently,] I am working as a Computer Science Teaching Fellow at Google. I am teaching coding and programming to students, while exposing them to the possibilities that computers afford not only recreationally, but academically and vis-a-vis future careers.

I chose the CLEE minor after taking Professor Makin's "Russia Today" class. I was totally enthralled with the content and the coursework so when I learned a minor existed (and that I could take a class with his wife, Alina Makin), I had to do it.  My best memories from pursuing the CLEE minor was in the RUSLAN (Russian Service Learning in Action Network) class with Alina Makin. I was not only able to study the historical context of the 5 immigration waves from Eastern Europe and Russia into the U.S. but I was able to volunteer south of campus twice weekly with elderly Russian immigrants. The experience was humbling and rewarding as they fed me much needed food (tasty fried potatoes, yum) while I was able to teach them basics about the internet and computers. The look of pure joy that many had when they Skyped with relatives that they hadn't heard from in over a decade will stay with me forever.

I am a more informed global citizen and not only have I drawn upon the information I have learned while getting a CLEE minor, I have applied the lessons learned to unique situations in many fields and areas. I love to learn and the material was engaging and absolutely worthwhile. Advice [to current students]: Enjoy learning everything. Cherish the opportunity to learn and dive in headfirst and you'll extract many lifelong pieces of information and concepts. 

Alicja Sobilo, Polish Major, 2010

I graduated from the University of Michigan in 2010 with a major in both Polish and Neuroscience. Currently I am completing medical school at the American University of the Caribbean, rotating in the state of Michigan. 

I chose the Slavic major in order to become closer to my own family heritage as well as to focus on developing the more artistic and creative side of my mind. My favorite parts of the Slavic major included classes that focused on Slavic film and art (in form of poetry, short film, literature, paintings) - showing the changes through the years as well as the ties into political and economic struggles at the given time. Not being very familiar with these topics originally, this major broadened my horizons in understanding history and the current world. In medicine the major has been useful because I am more aware of personal struggles in others as well as the psychology of thinking and representation. 

Some advice for current students considering a Slavic major is to definitely take some classes that are out of their comfort zone - you will most likely be very pleasantly surprised, as not one class in the Slavic department ever lost my interest or failed to teach me something I did not know before. Best of luck!