Joining Worlds

Elaine Vukov Announced as Shansi Assistant Director

elaineElaine Vukov was hired as the new Oberlin Shansi Assistant Director, effective July 1, 2013.   She brings to the position a background in international education and cross-cultural exchange, experience living and working abroad in Asia and elsewhere, and demonstrated program management and organizational development skills.

Elaine is joining Shansi after completing a two-year period of service in the Peace Corps in Azerbaijan, where she served as a Community Economic Development Specialist.  In this role, her responsibilities included working on curriculum development and teacher training for a local vocational training school, and preparing grant proposals to international foundations.  Her experiences as a Peace Corps Volunteer give her a fresh perspective on the kinds of challenges our Shansi Fellows face in the field.  Regarding her Peace Corps service, Elaine said, “It was highly instructive for me to live in a society that has a very different social organization from my own.  Even though I have extensive experience abroad, I think I developed more empathy for people in difficult political and social situations, and was grateful for all of the patience Azerbaijani people showed toward me while I learned about their country.  I think my greatest influence in Azerbaijan was as an example of what all women in the world should be able to achieve: a good education; an independent professional life; and freedom to do and think as I see fit.  I spent a lot of time just talking to young men and women about their responsibilities and dreams for the future.”

Before volunteering for the Peace Corps, Elaine worked as the Executive Director of International Programs at Hofstra Law School in New York and as the Director of Summer/Winter Programs and Study Abroad at Marymount Manhattan College.  Prior to joining Marymount Manhattan College, Elaine spent a decade at the Japan Society in New York, serving as the Director of the Education Department, and before that was the Administrative Director of the Institute for Education on Japan at Earlham College.  She has extensive experience designing outreach efforts, developing orientation programs and managing student and faculty exchange programs.   On being an administrator, Elaine commented, “I believe a good administrator sets the stage so other people will have opportunities to learn and grow through well-organized programs.  When I was a kid growing up in Chicago I received a scholarship for drawing classes at the Art Institute.  I loved that class and, in my mind, I still thank the unnamed museum administrators who organized that project for me and other little kids.”

Elaine received her M.A. in Asian/Japanese Studies at the University of Michigan, and her B.A. in History and Psychology at the University of Illinois.  She is widely traveled and has a passion for Japanese handmade crafts, especially papermaking.  Elaine observed, “Being an apprentice to a papermaker in Japan for a year gave me a window into many aspects of Japanese society.  Papermakers are attuned to nature; work long, arduous hours; and need the help of their families to succeed. It’s quite a privilege to be accepted into a relatively closed part of another culture. ”

Elaine’s comment on her appointment, “I am honored at being selected to become a member of Oberlin Shansi. Its long and distinguished history is an inspiration to me. I am looking forward to working with Oberlin students, professors and administrators and to carry on the tradition of strengthening personal and institutional ties between the United States and Asia. ”

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