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 students the distinctive opportunity to study Second Language Acquisition and Russian at the master's and doctoral levels. This coeducational graduate program enables 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 an additional 37 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.

In the spring 2006 issue of Slavic and East European Journal (SEEJ), Rachel Stauffer provided an overview of developments in Russian studies during the past 20 years, in which she stated, "In recent years, great attention to the study of SLA has been observed in the field...It is clear that progress has been made in understanding language learning in conjunction with the learning and teaching of Russian and other Slavic languages. Bryn Mawr College offers the only doctoral program of its kind of Russian and SLA, an option that differs substantially from a more traditional graduate degree program in linguisitics or literature."

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 take 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 are required to take a proseminar in SLA and a doctoral seminar on scholarly research and writing methods.

Before being admitted to the graduate program, students must have a B.A. in Russian or equivalent. To enter the Ph. D. program, students must have an M.A. in Russian, linguistics, SLA, or another closely related field. To receive a master's degree, students must take six semester-long graduate seminars, pass a reading exam in either French or German, and write a thesis. To receive a Ph.D., students must take 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.

Between 2000 and 2006 Bryn Mawr graduate students in Russian and SLA also competed successfully for 8 external fellowships for advanced study, field work, or dissertation research support in Russia and Eurasia. Graduate students have also received federal grant support for summer work and research at Bryn Mawr in the program over the past two years.

Teaching opportunities

Upon completion of graduate seminars in the structure of Russian, graduate students are normally awarded paid teaching assistantships that provide them with 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 may have an 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 are 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). Some financial aid is available for participation in these programs.

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 allows students access to 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 Language Learning Center has a library 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.

Current Students

In the academic year 2008-09 there are 13 students enrolled in the graduate program in Russian and Second Language Acquisition at Bryn Mawr. Two of these students are pursuing the M.A. degree; eleven are pursuing Ph.D.s.

Currently enrolled students earned B.A. degrees at Bryn Mawr College, Goucher College, Penn State University, University of Alaska-Anchorage, University of Kentucky-Lexington, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Western Michigan University, three institutions in Russia and one in Belgium. Five of them entered with M.A.s.


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.

Admission Requirements

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. The Department expects that the graduate program in Russian and SLA will re-locate to a new host institution in the coming one to two years. The department will make this information available on this web site as soon as it is available.