Irina Pidberejna is a UCF Alumni and former Research and Mentoring Student (RAMP) under the mentorship of Dr. Alla Kourova (2013-2015). Her first journey into research began as a college junior due to a lifelong passion for bilingualism and foreign language learning. Growing up in South Florida, Irina’s Eastern European background (Ukrainian, Russian and Polish) and love for the cultural/linguistic diversity which surrounded her, fueled her curiosity for learning and eventually teaching languages. As a sophomore, Irina started the Russian language program and participated in the Russian study abroad in 2013 led by Dr. Alla Kourova. In her junior year, Irina worked extensively with Dr. Kourova in understanding the motivation for students to learn a foreign language (in this case Russian). Her work “The Impact of Culture on Students’ Motivation to Acquire a Second Language” was published in the UCF undergraduate research journal. Under Dr. Kourova’s mentorship and guidance, Irina also participated in the Showcase of Undergraduate Research Excellence receiving an honorable mention (2014) and first place (2015) for her topic “Cross-Cultural Ways and their Role on Students’ Perceptions on Russian and American Culture in a Linguistic Context”. After graduation, Irina was a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Ufa, Russia where she continued to work with Dr. Kourova as a cultural field contributor for her book Picturing Russia: A Research Guide to Russian Culture. Since returning to the United States, Irina has been in constant collaboration and partnership with Dr. Kourova, growing in her scholarship from student to colleague. She has participated in multiple U.S. Department of State Grants including U.S. Russia Dialogue Program Peer-to-Peer, working with Blind and Visually impaired students, and helped create an interactive and accessible language learning video game. In 2018, she was part of the Fulbright Hays Group Projects Abroad grant with UCF faculty (Principal Investigator Dr. Alla Kourova and Co-Investigator Dr. Maria Santana). Her focus was on Russian Art and Culture. She has been a UCF Russian Language STARTALK instructor since 2017 and will be the Grant Lead Instructor teaching in the STARTALK 2022-2024 program, a grant awarded to Dr. Kourova. She has taught Russian at multiple U.S. universities and to all age groups. Without the UCF RAMP program, Irina’s research work and her partnership with her mentor and now colleague could not have been possible.
Click here to hear testimonials from Dr. Kourova’s students, including Irina!