Laurie Iudin-Nelson, Luther College professor of Russian Studies, was honored for 25 years of service at Concordia Language Villages in Bemidji, Minn., at a ceremony in July.
"Laurie has brought music, as well as language teaching methodology, front and center to the Russian Village and to all the Villages. Whether she skillfully directs a balalaika orchestra at the Russian Language Village or at Luther College, she knows full well the power of learning language through song, with lyrics that bring to life what is important to the Russian people, both historically and in contemporary society," said Christine Schulze, vice president for Concordia Language Villages of Concordia College.
Special guest at the event, which also served as a dedication of the new permanent Russian Village site and recognition of major donors, was Yury Y. Melnik, second secretary of the Russian Embassy, on behalf of His Excellency Sergey I. Kislyak, ambassador of the Russian Federation to the United States.
As part of the ceremony, an endowed scholarship was established in her name. The "Laurie Iudin-Nelson 25th Anniversary Endowed Fund" will grant scholarships for youth to attend the Russian Village.
"For 25 years, first as a staff member, then as dean, and now as a trainer of teachers of Russian through the federally-funded STARTALK program, Laurie is the epitome of excellence: as an educator, a curriculum designer and a teacher-mentor. But most importantly, she is dedicated to spreading her love of the Russian culture to young people, ensuring that another generation is motivated and excited about living the language and traveling to a vast country rich in tradition and alive with possibility for the future," said Schulze.
A member of the Luther faculty since 1992, Iudin-Nelson teaches courses in Russian language, culture, history, literature and film. She is entering her sixth year as head of the Modern Languages and Literatures department. Iudin-Nelson holds a bachelor's degree from St. Olaf College, a master's degree in Russian studies from the University of Minnesota and a Ph.D. in Slavic languages and literatures from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
"I was drawn to the study of Russian because of its history and its great literary, musical and artistic culture. It has been a joy and privilege to teach at the Russian Village since 1984 and share these interests. I have been surrounded by outstanding colleagues and wonderful students. The establishment of a scholarship that will allow youth to attend the Russian Village is a dream come true, " said Iudin-Nelson.
In 1992, during Iudin-Nelson’s first year at Luther, she founded the Luther College Balalaika Ensemble. Performing concerts of Russian and East European music throughout the Midwest in schools, colleges, churches and community centers, the ensemble includes vocalists and musicians on balalaika, domra, accordion and percussion. She has directed and performed with the group in more than 200 concerts, including performances in San Francisco, New Orleans, Washington D.C., Kansas City, Minneapolis and Chicago. Iudin-Nelson has also organized service projects for the ensemble, raising thousands of dollars for charitable causes in Russia.
Iudin-Nelson is also employed as a graduate-level teacher educator in the federally funded STARTALK program for critical languages that brings K-16 Russian teachers from throughout the nation to learn about foreign language/culture teaching methodology. Her specialty is the role of music in in the foreign language and culture curriculum.
As part of her service to Concordia Language Villages, Iudin-Nelson served as the Dean of the Russian Village for 16 years, directed their ethnic music programs, taught language and culture, and developed curriculum for all levels of the program. CLV is a program of Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn. An internationally recognized program of language and culture immersion for youth ages 7-18, CLV enrolls more than 10,000 participants annually.