Success Stories

Teaching Russian in Chicago

Sarah Holzhausen and Theodore Trotman
at the University of Chicago.

Despite temperatures soaring above 110 degrees, alumnus Theodore Trotman enjoyed a summer studying Russian in Astrakhan, a city in southern Russia.

Trotman, who graduated from Grand Valley in 2007, is now teaching Russian at the University of Chicago while completing his doctoral program. He is friends with Sarah Holzhausen, who graduated from Grand Valley as a Russian studies major in 2009. Holzhausen, a Muskegon native, is also completing a doctoral degree at the University in Chicago and hopes to become a professor of Russian language. Both Trotman and Holzhausen were Honors College students.

Trotman said he developed an interest in Russia and its language while attending Belding High School. “I met a Russian family that lived in my hometown and it turned out their stepfather attended Grand Valley,” he said.

After graduating from Grand Valley, Trotman received a scholarship to participate in a U.S. State Department language program in Astrakhan, a city close to Kazakhstan. He stayed with local families to study the language and culture.

Days after the group’s departure from the area in 2008, the Russia/Georgia conflict increased to a violent uprising.

“Our study of the Russian language and adjacent cultures was important because we were so close to the border of Kazakhstan. It afforded us the opportunity to interact and really get to know many of our Russian peers,” he said.

by Michele Coffill

This story was filed with the tags: Academic Excellence, Graduate Student