Hobart and William Smith Colleges recently hosted the 2008 New York State Collegiate Russian Competition. In addition to five students from HWS, 22 students from USMA West Point, SUNY Binghamton, Hamilton College and Syracuse University competed in a series of events designed to test their ability to speak, read and fully comprehend Russian.
The competition lasted for nearly two hours and contestants were broken up into two groups: the first year level, in which William Smith first-years Becky Perkins, Belinda Littlefield and Rachael Rich competed, and the second year level, in which Harris Goldman '08 and Katrina Havrish '10 participated. Students in the first year level competed in four events: reading (cold-reading a Russian text), poetry (reciting a poem from memory), about oneself (a monolog and "Q&A" with judges), and grammar (a 40-question written test). Second year students competed in all but the grammar test. The students received the poem in January and have been practicing for the event ever since. Most study sessions were held this spring, with the majority being in the last month.
Littlefield won second place and Goldman took third in their respective divisions. “Beyond our second place finish in the first-year level, HWS students performed very well overall; in nearly every event, HWS students ranked fourth or better,” says David Galloway, assistant professor at HWS.
Galloway is also co-founder of the competition. “There is a similar event for high-school students, which is where I had such a positive experience--but there is no competition at the post-secondary level. To fill this void I founded this event in 2002 with Professor Kristin Bidoshi of Union College."
Over the years, several schools were added to the group until they reached what they consider a stable group of six. "For the faculty, it's less a competition as it is a means to celebrate students who are taking language study seriously. Though we award prizes to the top three finishers, we always have given every student a smaller participation prize in recognition of the fact that they give up a portion of their weekend for the event.”
The event was considered a great success academically for all the student participants, and it celebrated the beauty and complexity of Russian and a foreign language. Next year's event will be hosted by Union College.