A Russian and Eurasian studies adventure.

Billie Jean Stirewalt

Billie Jean Stirewalt '14

Major: Russian and Eurasian Studies; Politics

Award: Mount Holyoke Alumnae Bardwell Fellowship

Internship: Research Assistant, Center for Social Sciences, Georgia, Russia; Research intern, CSS Tbilisi, Georgia, Russia

My journey as an RES major has been quite an adventure! While originally I thought of the department as a way to focus my attention on a more narrow topic (Russian politics and history), I quickly found myself exploring parts of the world that I didn't even know existed.

A J-term internship and a summer UAF grant sent me to Tbilisi, Georgia and I began exploring the post-Soviet republics of the South Caucasus. My senior year at MHC, I was fortunate enough to study Georgian at the Five College Center for World Languages and complete an independent study that continued the research I started during my internships. Even before graduation, I was offered a job at a research firm in Tbilisi, and have been there ever since.

In the last two years, I've visited 12 countries, met the love of my life, adopted a Georgian mountain dog, and published numerous research papers for USAID and the World Bank. Recently, my volunteer work in Tbilisi inspired me to start a storytelling podcast called Taxi Taxi which aims to bring unique and exciting stories from the South Caucasus to a global audience.

Thanks to the Mount Holyoke Alumnae Bardwell Fellowship, I spent two months in Kyrgyzstan to expand our show into Central Asia, and train aspiring journalists in Bishkek

My work in Tbilisi qualified me for an exciting job as a Publications Manager with the U.S. Army which I accepted in 2017.

I never would have thought that a liberal arts degree would have taken me so far so fast, but with the support of my classmates and professors, I now have more opportunities than I know what to do with!