❍ Year of graduation: 1990
❍ 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?
Soctt Monroe: I am a Supervisory Management Analyst with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C. I am the HR director for the Office of Air and Radiation, an organization of 1,100 people who implement the Clean Air Act and run voluntary programs such as Energy Star. I am an HR generalist, which means that I work in pretty much every aspect of HR as well as in Equal Employment Opportunity and diversity. I have occupied this position since 2008. I have been an employee of USEPA since 1992. (This is typical; EPA employees tend to stay with the agency.)
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?
Soctt Monroe: Unquestionably, yes. I had intended to seek employment with the U.S. State Department. My Russian degree led to a master’s degree in international policy and Russian language, then to a Presidential Management Fellowship. Circumstances prevented me from landing a job with DOS, but I exercised a connection with USEPA acquired during graduation school. Specifically, in 1991 when the USSR broke up I was working on an environmental research program. Information started coming out about the environmentally disastrous actions taken under the Soviet regime. Because I was able to read Russian, I was able to research the nuclear catastrophe that occurred mid-century near Chelyabinsk and publish one of the first English language articles on the subject. It was this work that helped me get a position with EPA’s radiation division. A short assignment at DOS convinced me I did not want to work there, so I stayed with EPA and eventually abandoned the thought of an international career in favor of simply staying in public service. My move into HR was related to a mid-career interest in organization development. On a personal level, studying Russian and traveling to Russia forced me to come to terms with my American-ness in a way that other foreign experiences did not. I’m struggling to articulate this point; suffice to say that I found Russia unique in being simultaneously proximate in terms of culture and absolutely foreign, whereas other countries I’ve been to have seemed to be one or the other. The paradox still sits with me, even though I haven’t visited the country since 1993.
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.
Soctt Monroe: I highly recommend the Russian major. I viewed it as a my educational hub and built spokes around it in the political science and history departments. The Russian department is (was?) linguistic and literary in focus, which I think offers the student a point of access to the culture that complements what is offered by other departments. The literature is fascinating, the language is hugely rich, the poetry is magnificent — Mayakovsky, Pushkin, Akhmatova. If I can offer any kind of object lesson, it’s that one’s options after graduation are not limited to a Ph.D. or the Foreign Service.
If you would like to write to Scott Monroe, please contact Baktygul Aliev.