Student Government Leader
To Represent OSU In Russia
Ashley Leonard is in for the trip of a lifetime. Oklahoma State’s Student Government Association president will join 13 other SGA presidents from across the United States as they head to Moscow, Russia on Nov. 13 to represent their universities and to create and implement collaborative projects between American and Russian leaders.
“I’m really excited about getting to network with 13 other student body presidents that OSU doesn’t typically collaborate with,” said Leonard, a senior accounting and finance major from Artesia, N.M. “Since I’m the only student from the Midwest going, I’ll really have a good opportunity to build relationships and network with 13 other schools that OSU doesn’t traditionally work with. I think that will be the biggest asset that I’ll be able to bring back to OSU.”
SGA presidents from other schools include those from Duke, Harvard, MIT and Stanford.
The week-long trip to Russia will certainly be a new experience for Leonard, but like a true Cowgirl, this isn’t her first rodeo. As a sophomore, Leonard studied abroad in Denmark for a semester, so she feels prepared to make another trip across the Atlantic.
“I’ve done a lot of research, but I’m a little nervous because it’s unfamiliar,” she said. “I don’t know the culture, I don’t know the language, I don’t know the people, so I am a little nervous because of all the uncertainties. But I’m more excited than nervous.”
The goal of the trip is to create project proposals that will focus not only on developing the relationship between Russia and the United States but also on improving the lives of the citizens of both countries. Leonard had the opportunity to speak with a few Russian Ph.D. students, who provided her with insights on major issues in Russia.
“The proposals have something in common between Russian and the U.S., specifically the university and the area we represent,” Leonard said. “I’m going to take a proposal based off the land grant university mission and agriculture, a proposal based on sustainability; I’ll probably take one over on illegal immigration because that’s pretty much the main problem in Moscow right now, and awareness of human rights and human trafficking.
“My main goal is to get over there and have at least a couple proposals that really connect with what they’re looking for. It would be awesome if they were really excited about my proposals and we could come back and make a big difference in Oklahoma as well as in Russia.”
If Leonard’s proposals are successful, they could have a much broader positive effect on OSU as well.
“If they did like one of my proposals, it would really help OSU continue to build on the relationship with Russia and could potentially lead to some stronger connections with some universities in Moscow, which could lead to more opportunities for study abroad for OSU students,” Leonard said.
When she’s not in meetings or seminars, Leonard will have the opportunity to bridge the gap between OSU and Russian students.
“In the evenings we have the opportunity to meet with some students from Moscow, so that will be a great opportunity to meet with them and tell them what OSU has to offer and maybe get them excited about coming to OSU to study,” she said.
As a whole, Leonard is excited about the prospect of the experience and what it means not only to herself, but to the relationship between OSU and Russia as a whole.
“The whole purpose of this trip is to build a relationship with Russia, so now that OSU will be represented on this trip, I really hope that there’s a strong relationship built while I’m there and carried forward over the next several years,” Leonard said.