CIEE Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Study Center in St. Petersburg, Russia

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Organization negotiated first-ever educational exchange between the U.S. and former U.S.S.R. in 1967

"This very idea – that by bringing people together we can increase global harmony and nurture peace – is the foundation on which CIEE was built."

Leaders, alumni, and current students of CIEE: Council on International Educational Exchange recently commemorated the 50th anniversary of CIEE’s Study Center in St. Petersburg during a series of celebratory events held September 21-24 in Russia.

CIEE, the oldest and largest nonprofit study abroad and intercultural exchange organization in the U.S., negotiated the first educational exchange that ever took place between the U.S. and the Soviet Union by establishing the Cooperative Russian Language Program in St. Petersburg (then called Leningrad) in 1967. By immersing American students in Russian culture through project-based learning and volunteering models, the program served to strengthen ties between the two nations and ease Cold War tensions.

By 1969, CIEE’s Russia program had gained in popularity, leading to the opening of a CIEE Study Center in Leningrad and the eventual offering of summer and semester study abroad programs in Russian Studies, Language, Business, and International Relations. Today, more than 5,000 students from universities and colleges across the U.S. have taken part in a CIEE program in Russia.

“Fifty years ago, U.S.-Russian relations were strained at best, and we can observe some mutual mistrust even today. We believe that at times like these, it’s more important than ever to reach across the divide and collaborate effectively on the world’s stage. This very idea – that by bringing people together we can increase global harmony and nurture peace – is the foundation on which CIEE was built,” said James P. Pellow, President and CEO, CIEE.

To commemorate 50 years of opening the doors of connection, conversation, and understanding between the U.S. and Russia, CIEE welcomed alumni back to St. Petersburg, where they joined current CIEE Study Abroad students, staff, partners, and friends for four days of reminiscing, discussions, and cultural exchange.

The anniversary celebration featured a keynote presentation by John R. Beyrle ’76, former U.S. ambassador to Russia, as well as panel presentations with Britta Bjornlund ’88, branch chief, U.S. Department of State; Jill Dougherty ’69 ’71, former CNN correspondent and Moscow bureau chief; and Mark Teeter, columnist at “The Moscow Times”; among many others.

Regardless of the sometimes strained relationship between the U.S. and Russia, the CIEE Study Center has remained open, inviting students to immerse themselves in the beauty and elegance of Russian culture and helping to build connections between people. CIEE is dedicated to providing the highest level of academic and intercultural programs for students from the U.S., and around the world, for generations to come.

About CIEE: Council on International Educational Exchange
Founded in 1947, CIEE is the country’s oldest and largest nonprofit study abroad and intercultural exchange organization, serving more than 300 U.S. colleges and universities, 1,000 U.S. high schools, and 30,000 international exchange students each year. CIEE serves as a leading sponsor for the U.S. Department of State’s Exchange Visitor Program (the J-1 Visa program), supporting exchanges with more than 100 countries. In addition, CIEE operates 62 study centers in 41 countries, and sponsors international faculty training programs, teach abroad programs, and various specialty and custom programs for secondary, post-secondary, and international students. Visit

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