The Pushkin Summer Institute (PSI)

PSI is an intensive pre-college Russian language and culture experience for outstanding high-school students with two distinct but related programs: PSI Madison and PSI Abroad. The former is a five-week residential program on UW-Madison’s campus while the latter offers students a six-week Russian immersion experience in Daugavpils, Latvia.

PSI Madison aims to: build and improve students’ Russian language abilities; develop critical-thinking, reading, and writing skills; prepare students for the demands of college; and expose students to the opportunities UW-Madison and the Madison community have to offer. A related initiative is the PSI Madison Pushkin Scholars program.

We interviewed Anya Nesterchouk, the long-term on-site director of PSI to find out more about the summer 2023 program.


How many students participated in PSI Madison this summer and where were they from?

This summer, we had a robust program that welcomed 19 participants from partner schools in Chicago and Baltimore. To be admitted, PSI students underwent a rigorous application and interview process. All the participants successfully completed the program and demonstrated considerable language gains.


Besides studying Russian, what activities do students engage in during the PSI?

 In addition to intensive Russian language and culture study overseen by our lead instructor Anna Borovskaya-Ellis, PSI participants honed their analytical reading, critical thinking, and writing abilities during the five-week lecture series on Alexander Pushkin (led by Professor Emeritus David Bethea) combined with writing seminars on advanced composition and individual consultations with writing instructors. Students also earned certificates in “Global Leadership and Cultural Intelligence,” a course led by UW PhD candidate Valeria Umanets. This course helped students understand the significance of cultural intelligence in a multicultural world, develop cultural self-awareness and appreciation of diversity, and apply global leadership principles to real-world case studies and scenarios.

Outside of the classroom, students participated in a variety of events and fostered relationships with attendees from other UW pre-college programs as well as first-year Russian students enrolled in Slavic 101 during the summer. Participants benefited from tailored sessions given by representatives of the UW-Madison Office of Financial Aid and Admissions and received valuable information on the college application process and admission requirements. Additionally, students met with Russian Flagship students and leadership to learn more about advancing their language study.

And, of course, we offered a broad array of summer activities, ranging from paddle boarding and bowling to cultural and culinary workshops, as well as trips to Wisconsin Dells. While our participants work hard during the week, they do have time to relax and enjoy the summer.


You’ve been involved in the PSI for quite a while. How long has it been and what about the program do you find so rewarding? 

I have been part of PSI since its inception in 2012, growing alongside the program over the past 11 years. One of the most rewarding aspects of this journey is being a member of the PSI community. We have an incredibly talented team of Russian language and writing instructors, residential counselors, and program administrators, who take the program to a new level every single summer. The Russian language teachers and school leadership in partner institutions have become long-standing friends who assist with various aspects of the recruitment process and beyond. Yet, the most rewarding aspect remains co-creating the PSI experience with our amazing multilingual, multicultural participants, who seamlessly integrate into the extended PSI family.