Education: BS in Foreign Service from Georgetown University, a master's in history from McGill University, a master's in human resources from Roosevelt University, and a master’s in nonprofit management from North Park University.
When did you first develop an interest in Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies?
On some level I became interested in Russia when I picked up my first Dostoyevsky novel, The Possessed, in high school. I had the opportunity to deepen this interest by taking a wonderful two-semester survey course on Russian history while I was an undergraduate. I can still remember how much I loved Riasanovsky. After graduation, I read War and Peace while I struggled to find my first job. Luckily, it took me a few months to land on my feet and so I had the chance to finish the book.
How have your interests changed since then?
After earning a master’s degree in history at McGill University in Montreal and teaching European history at several colleges and universities, I began an administrative career and am currently the Dean of Arts and Sciences at Morton College, a Hispanic Serving Institution in Cicero, IL. Over the past seven years, I’ve become a serious student of the Soviet Union in the interwar years. I’m interested in how people both theorized and experienced the revolutionary project, but my personal blog on Soviet history embraces all of the creative, subjective, exploratory, and open-ended aspects of the blog genre.
What is your current research project?
This month I will be joining four other community college administrators on a two-week Fulbright trip to Russia. Our goal will be to forge partnerships with institutions of higher learning in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Arkhangelsk, and Kaliningrad. And of course I will try to incorporate my experiences in the Fulbright program on my personal blog on Soviet history, www.sovietroulette.com. I’m also currently looking for way to participate in a wider, more collaborative blog project related to Russian, Eastern European, and Central Asian studies.
What do you value about your ASEEES membership?
I enjoy reading Slavic Review, which helps me keep up to date on what is going on in current academic research into Russian history and related subjects. Although I haven’t had the opportunity to attend the ASEEES’ annual conference, I am definitely planning to make some time to be there next year and in the years to come.
Besides your professional work, what other interests and/or hobbies do you enjoy?
I have two children, so I’m usually watching soccer games on the weekends. And I’ve just launched a Russian reading club for troubled youth, which is off to a good start. Also, I am married to a Tunisian woman, who, ironically, took me on my first trip to Russia when she invited me to accompany her to her electrical engineering conference in St. Petersburg. I love Tunisian food, music, and culture, and of course I’m always interested in learning more about how the Tunisian experience in the Arab Spring compares with the Russian revolutionary tradition.
Photo Caption: One of Derek’s favorite spots - The Russian history bookshelf at Powell’s in Hyde Park, Chicago