Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Monday, August 29, 2016

Alumnus Russell is UW-Madison's first Fulbright-Clinton fellow

Christopher Russell (MIPA/JA '16) served in the Peace Corps in Ukraine before receiving his master's degree in international public affairs and law degree from UW-Madison. Christopher Russell (MIPA/JA '16) served in the Peace Corps in Ukraine before receiving his master's degree in international public affairs and law degree from UW-Madison.

Christopher Russell (MIPA/JD ’16) has been awarded a Fulbright Program grant to work in Ukraine’s Ministry of Justice through the Clinton Public Policy Fellowship. He is the first University of Wisconsin–Madison student to receive a Clinton fellowship, which provides opportunities for U.S. citizens to serve in a foreign government ministry or institution of partner countries.

Russell will work as a special assistant for a senior-level official in Ukraine, and his fellowship will include an independent academic study component. Founded in 2012, the Clinton fellowship program has awarded grants to 83 scholars during its first four years. It is one of 10 programs sponsored by the Fulbright Program, the United States' flagship program for international exchange.  

After receiving a bachelor’s degree in democracy and justice studies from UW–Green Bay, Russell served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ukraine, where he taught English at a secondary school. Russell said he was moved by the hospitality and friendliness of Ukrainians and would like to see things better for them.

“On a personal and professional level, the current conflict in Ukraine has motivated me to return,” said Russell, who participated in La Follette’s dual-degree program, earning a juris doctor (JD) degree from the UW Law School in 2016 along with his master’s degree in international public affairs (MIPA). “As the conflict intensified, I realized that my time in Luhansk had given me an important perspective that few politicians, academics and policymakers possessed.

“The tipping point was when our democratically elected leaders voted in favor of providing lethal support to Ukraine, something President Obama has refused to do. At that point I realized that I could no longer use ‘politics’ as an excuse to separate myself from the impact our country’s policies have on my Ukrainian friends’ lives.”

Russell said that the La Follette School helped improve his qualitative and quantitative skillset, which has made him more confident in his ability to provide an objective analysis. “I also hold a new perspective in global development policy after studying under established and impressive researchers like La Follette School faculty members Valerie Kozel and Christopher McKelvey,” he added.

Born and raised in La Crosse, Russell called his Workshop in International Public Affairs capstone project an incredibly rewarding experience. “Applying the lessons from our coursework, my team assisted a leading foreign aid agency with the task of creating global poverty measurements which could better capture the complex and various manifestations of poverty,” he said.

Russell encourages La Follette students to “utilize the impressive statistical and micro- and macro-economic minds at La Follette. Quant-heavy courses are like vegetables – they are not always the most appetizing, but they are good for you.”

Fulbright award recipients are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement and their record of service and leadership in their respective fields. The program is sponsored by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, with significant contributions from participating governments and host institutions.