It’s pretty rare for the typical college senior to say that they’ve been to Russia. After next week, however, West Virginia University’s Student Government Association can boast two participants of an elite fellowship program.

Zach Redding, student body president, will follow in former President Jason Bailey’s footsteps as a Kremlin Fellow, as Redding will travel to Moscow from May 25 to June 3.

The senior political science major from Hanover, Pa. has been selected to participate among 14 other student leaders in the Summer 2012 Kremlin Fellows Program, an exchange program sponsored by the Russian Federation’s Federal Agency on Youth Affairs.

“After being elected president, I wanted to ensure that I would work tirelessly to improve life for our students and do everything in my power to shed a positive light on our University,” Redding said. “I have an incredible opportunity to travel internationally and represent our University to the utmost degree.”

Less than 10 universities, including WVU, can boast two or more Kremlin Fellows, and Richard Portwood, director of Center for American-Russian Engagement of Emerging Leaders, said many of the other schools with multiple Kremlin Fellows are Ivy League institutions.

“This shows how prepared the student body presidents at WVU are for this opportunity each year,” he said. “We hope that the students gain their own perspective, interact with their counterparts and gain a really unique view.”

Redding hopes to gain enough insight to help to advance WVU’s international activity and global engagement. He will blog about his trip on the SGA website at http://sga.wvu.edu.

“I don’t have a very strong background in Russian politics or history at this point, but over the past month I have met with some professors and done my research, as well as following Russian news very closely,” Redding said. “I will have the opportunity to observe different tactics so that we, as a University, will be able to engage ourselves more with Russia and improve upon youth relations for the future.”

Redding will be in the company of student leaders from Harvard University, Georgetown University, Stanford University and Brown University, among others.

“The group of individuals I will be traveling with come from prestigious institutions, and to me, it’s just another example of how WVU is becoming one of the premiere institutions in the country,” Redding said. “I couldn’t be happier to represent my school at such an important event.”

Redding will meet with other student leaders from Moscow State University, Moscow State Institute of International Relations, Bauman Moscow State Technical University and Skolkovo Open University.

“I will be able to ask questions and hear their perspective on many different topics,” Redding said. “I’ll also be with 14 other student body presidents, so I’ll have the opportunity to bounce ideas off of them to get some input on how we can improve SGA and WVU as a whole.”

The Center for American-Russian Engagement of Emerging Leaders partners with the Federal Agency on Youth Affairs to facilitate the Kremlin Fellows Program in order to break barriers and stereotypes left behind by the Cold War, and create a new image of the Russian Federation for young Americans. The mission of the program is to provide firsthand experiences by offering the students opportunities to visit the Russian Federation and meet Russian peers.

Acceptance into the program consisted of a thorough application process, in which the program coordinators chose 15 student leaders to best represent the United States and their respective universities.

“It’s an incredible honor to be considered for such a delegation, but more importantly, WVU will have representation on an international spectrum with the highest ranking officials in the Russian government,” Redding said.

To learn more about the Kremlin Fellows Program, visit http://careel.org/kremlin-fellow-program.

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mm/05/22/12

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