grad program

Graduate Program

M. A. and Ph.D. Programs in Russian and Second Language Acquisition at Bryn Mawr College

The Department of Russian at Bryn Mawr College offers currently enrolled students the distinctive opportunity to study Second Language Acquisition and Russian at the master's and doctoral levels. This coeducational graduate program enables current students to explore the most recent scholarship in the field and to conduct independent research on the teaching and learning of Russian as a second language.

Bryn Mawr's first Ph.D. in Russian was awarded in 1966; since then over 50 Ph.D.s have been completed; the first Ph.D. in Russian and Second Language Acquisition (SLA) was awarded in 1992, and in 1996-97 the department began admitting only students seeking to specialize in SLA. To date a total of 36 Ph.D.s in Russian and SLA have been granted by the program.

Beginning in the fall of 2008, the Graduate Program in Russian and SLA at Bryn Mawr ceased admitting new students. The program continues to serve currently matriculated M.A. and Ph.D. students until they complete their graduate studies.

Program description

Second Language Acquisition (SLA) is a relatively new, rapidly advancing field, which uses empirically based research methods to address larger cognitive, cultural, psycholinguistic, and other domains closely connected with the teaching and learning of Russian. Graduate students in the department have taken specialized seminars on such topics as theories of SLA, testing methods, curriculum design, skills assessment, and language policy, as well as traditional graduate courses in Old Church Slavonic, the history of Russian, and the structure of contemporary Russian. All doctoral students have also taken a proseminar in SLA and a doctoral seminar on scholarly research and writing methods.

Before being admitted to the graduate program, students must have completed a B.A. in Russian or equivalent. To enter the Ph. D. program, students must have completed an M.A. in Russian, linguistics, SLA, or another closely related field. To receive a master's degree, students were required to complete six semester-long graduate seminars, pass a reading exam in either French or German, and write a thesis. To receive a Ph.D., students were required to complete twelve graduate seminars, pass exams in either French or German, and statistics, as well as pass Ph.D. preliminary exams in four areas of specialization, and write a doctoral dissertation.

Two graduate seminars taken at other institutions may count toward the total of twelve required seminars. These seminars may include courses taken in Russia under the auspices of American Councils. However, although Bryn Mawr serves as the accrediting institution for these courses, they do not automatically count toward a Bryn Mawr degree. And under no circumstances can more than two courses taken elsewhere be counted toward a Bryn Mawr degree.

Financial aid opportunities

Financial aid is available in the forms of fellowships, which include full tuition plus a stipend, and scholarships, which cover full or partial tuition. Merit constitutes the primary criterion for the award of Bryn Mawr fellowships and scholarships. Financial aid is awarded for anywhere between one and four years. Students are encouraged to apply for outside scholarships and grants as well.

Bryn Mawr graduate students in Russian and SLA also competed successfully for external fellowships for advanced study, field work, or dissertation research support in Russia and Eurasia. Students have also received federal grant support for summer work and research at Bryn Mawr in the program.

Teaching opportunities

Upon completion of graduate seminars in the structure of Russian, graduate students have been awarded paid teaching assistantships to provide them the opportunity to apply their knowledge of SLA theories and research in the classroom. As teaching assistants, they work closely with faculty supervisors on all aspects of course instruction, including syllabus design, materials development, and the preparation and grading of examinations. In addition, graduate students have had the opportunity to teach intensive immersion courses in Bryn Mawr's summer Russian Language Institute (RLI) and may enroll in the College's teacher certification program for secondary education.

Study abroad opportunities

Graduate students have been highly encouraged to continue their study of Russian by enrolling in summer, semester, and ten-month programs conducted in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and to pursue research at major academic centers throughout Russia and the CIS under the auspices of the American Councils (ACTR-ACCELS).

Research resources

In conjunction with Haverford and Swarthmore Colleges, Bryn Mawr maintains a library collection containing over two million catalogued volumes. The library has available numerous on-line bibliographic databases and indices, including ERIC, the MLA bibliography, and the Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts Index. Over 20 million books and journal articles are accessible electronically, and can be obtained via interlibrary loan. Additional indices and databases are available on CD-ROM.

Bryn Mawr's historically close connection with ACTR-ACCELS has allowed students to access a database containing information on students who have studied in Russia under its sponsorship. The only database of its kind, it contains a broad spectrum of biographic, demographic, and proficiency information collected during twenty years of research on immersion programs in Russia.

Computing resources include Mac and PC workstations with Cyrillic fonts in Bryn Mawr's computer labs. The College's main library also has a robust collection of Russian films, taped lectures and performances, and daily Russian TV broadcasts, as well as a fully-equipped multi-media development computer for the development of teaching materials.


Some of the alumni of the Bryn Mawr College graduate program in Russian and SLA hold positions as tenured track faculty at Penn State University, University of Texas, University of Maryland, UCLA, University of Florida, Brigham Young University, University of Tennessee, the Air Force Academy, and the Defense Language Institute.  Alumni who do not hold tenure track positions work in research and developmental positions at American Councils, Center for Advanced Study of Language or in government, business, journalism, or third sector.

Student life

Employment opportunities can be found on the Bryn Mawr campus and in the greater Philadelphia area. Many students take advantage of opportunities to work in areas directly related to their graduate study, while others find employment in unrelated fields.

The Graduate Student Association serves as a liaison between graduate students of all departments and the College faculty and administration. It elects graduate student representatives to address concerns of the graduate student community at large and organizes lectures and social events for graduate students.

The Russian Department itself provides and supports a wide range of Russian-related activities for both undergraduate and graduate students, such as weekly Russian tables, a film series, and Evening of Russian Culture. Bryn Mawr and neighboring institutions organize lectures, concerts, films, readings, and social events open to the entire college community. Nearby Philadelphia and the surrounding area are home to many cultural institutions, museums, and historical sites.