❍ Year of graduation: 1975
❍ Field of current or former occupation: Government
Question: What is your current occupation and where do you live? Please briefly describe your duties and responsibilities. How long have you been at this position?
Renee Meyer: I am now the President and Artistic Director of a performing ballet company called Ballet Mobile (www.balletmobile.org) . We are a non-profit group of volunteers who bring GOOD ballet (and hope, beautiful music, group movement, visual imagery, and love) to non-traditional locations like nursing centers and assisted living facilities. Our overarching goal is to help people feel better and improve their well-being through our “house calls” (no curtain calls!). The folks we serve would rarely – if ever – have the opportunity to see good ballet. Ballet Mobile is in its 6th year now. While I never stopped teaching ballet and choreographing, I worked for the Department of Defense for 30+ years, retiring in 2008 as a Senior Executive and then being hired back to work at a specialized (and first-of-its-kind) language center, a University-Affiliated Research Center devoted entirely to the Science of Language (http://www.casl.umd.edu/). I was originally hired by Department of Defense for my Russian skills to be a teacher in their specialized school, and I moved up through the ranks. I am most proud that I achieved senior standing in both the Technical and Management tracks.
Question: Did studying Russian language and culture at Williams help you in your professional and personal development? If yes, then how were Russian Studies were useful to you? What opportunities and challenges did the Russian major open up for you both specific to your current occupation and more generally?
Renee Meyer: Russian Language and Culture were my life! It was a tribute to my grandparents and heritage that I learned as much as I could to honor them. As Nick Fersen used to say to me, “I rubbed it all over my body.” While I went beyond the Russian area in my career, everything I learned was relevant and absolutely necessary to my career and my life – even in the ballet dimensions. Everything contributed to who I am.
Question: Please share your advice or recommendation about the Russian department at Williams to a prospective student who is considering taking courses or majoring in our program.
Renee Meyer: a. Achieve at least levels 3/3 (Interagency Language Roundtable scale) in both Listening and Reading and Level 2 or higher in Speaking. There are plenty of careers in the Federal government for people with real language skills, but those people have to be good enough to make the lever move. If going to Russia is an option, do it. Get tested. Don’t be afraid. b. Make sure your English skills are as close to perfect as possible. Being a high-level Russian “speaker” is fine, but for government work we have to render it all into English with 100% reliability and accuracy. Work on translation all the time in all genres, even poetry. It helps so much. c. Decide what you want to do with your Russian, and hold your head up high. So many people always said to me, “What are you going to do with THAT major?” or “You’ll never find a job with the government” or other charming things. Look into language summer internships at places like the National Security Agency, but understand that you will need a clearance for places like NSA and that it takes time. I always wanted to teach, and in my day I had to go to North Adams State College for teaching certification (because I was told “We don’t train teachers here, Renée” (I still remember the intonation :)), so that’s where good academic counseling and 21st century realities come into play.
If you would like to write to Renee Meyer, please contact Baktygul Aliev.