Professor Nadieszda Kizenko

"As long as Kizenko is teaching this course, everything is right in the world." - Comment from student evaluations of History of Russia II, Spring 2013.

Professor Nadia KizenkoProfessor Nadieszda (Nadia) Kizenko will talk enthusiastically and intelligently about Russia to anyone who will listen. A 20-year veteran of the history faculty, Professor Kizenko’s History of Russia I and II, and her History of Eastern Europe courses are something of an institution at the University at Albany. Despite their rather unassuming titles, these courses fill each year because Professor Kizenko imbues them with her own unique style that captivates, energizes, and inspires her students.

Professor Kizenko frequently uses props, film, and other media to convey context and meaning; she creates, as one student put it, “a visually stimulating course.” A speaker of Russian, Ukrainian, and Slavonic, Professor Kizenko can translate course material into English on the fly. Most often, however, she can be found at the front of her classroom delivering lectures so compelling that she keeps her students’ attention through the sheer force of her personality and her skill as an orator. Her courses cover controversial subjects like genocide, famine, war, and atrocity, and Professor Kizenko strategically intermixes the emotive nature of these concepts with straightforward narrative and analysis that was described by several students as, “brilliant.” Even when discussing her subject outside of the classroom, Professor Kizenko creates an engaging learning environment. One of her former PhD students wrote,

“She treated words not merely as a means of communication but as an art.  She has the ability to animate stories without resorting to verbosity.  It is not an exaggeration to say that [Professor Kizenko] hypnotized the public with her authenticity and enthusiasm, demonstrating her passionate commitment to the subject.”

Her grasp of the material is so nuanced and complete that she often does all of this without relying on lecture notes, to the amazement of her students. Her memory of the subject matter has been described as, “near eidetic.”

Professor Kizenko has taught 15 different courses ranging from large general education courses to graduate seminars, with topics reflecting her intellectual breadth, multi-disciplinarity, and innate curiosity. The unifying and most distinct characteristic of Professor Kizenko’s teaching, however, is also the most distinct characteristic of her scholarship: good writing. Professor Kizenko is herself a talented writer of English prose and injects her courses with an appreciation and deeper understanding of the written word by asking students to read particularly colorful passages from historical texts and assigning extra-credit grammar quizzes in her lower-division courses. Of course, papers comprise the bulk of the graded assignments in Professor Kizenko’s courses, so students walk away not only with a better understanding of the course content, but also with enhanced writing skills that can be deployed in the liberal arts, sciences, business, or any other discipline they choose to pursue.

For more information about Professor Kizenko’s teaching and scholarship, visit her faculty page at the Department of History.

Patrick Nold, John Delano, and Jay Oddi contributed to this article