Critical Language Scholarship Program | Matthew Tappert
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Matthew Tappert

After the CLS Pro­gram I spent the bet­ter part of a decade work­ing in ex-Sovi­et Cen­tral Asia, which is how I end­ed up in D.C. work­ing on inter­na­tion­al devel­op­ment pro­grams. Russ­ian has been essen­tial to every job I’ve had.”

Matt began study­ing Russ­ian as an under­grad­u­ate at Penn­syl­va­nia State Uni­ver­si­ty, and stud­ied abroad in St. Peters­burg before becom­ing a CLS schol­ar in Tom­sk the fol­low­ing year. He want­ed to improve his lan­guage skills in an authen­tic Russ­ian environment. 

There was a clear con­trast between CLS and the pro­gram I did in St. Peters­burg, and the affect they had on my lan­guage speak­ing ability.”

After grad­u­at­ing, Matt returned to Cen­tral Asia with the Peace Corps, and stayed in the region for the next ten years work­ing with var­i­ous con­trac­tors and NGOs. 

Although the Peace Corps pro­vid­ed basic instruc­tion in Kyr­gyz to its vol­un­teers, Matt’s knowl­edge of Russ­ian was essen­tial to build­ing rela­tion­ships with the local com­mu­ni­ty. Many mem­bers of old­er gen­er­a­tions in Kyr­gyzs­tan grew up speak­ing Russ­ian in the Sovi­et Union. Matt was able to use his Russ­ian to com­mu­ni­cate with dif­fer­ent stake­hold­ers in the com­mu­ni­ty and build mutu­al understanding. 

In Cen­tral Asia you must be flex­i­ble and have a high lev­el of tol­er­ance for unpre­dictabil­i­ty. Doing devel­op­ment projects like the ones that I work on now, you must bal­ance dif­fer­ent kinds of desires among part­ners and stake­hold­ers. The rea­son I was able to han­dle that stress was because I learned how to be flex­i­ble and diplo­mat­ic, which comes from deal­ing with diverse groups of people.” 

Matthew with DAI and Kyrgyz State Law Academy staff at the opening of a Legislative Drafting Training Center in 2014

After ten years of work in Cen­tral Asia, Matt chose to pur­sue a degree in Nation­al­ism Stud­ies at Cen­tral Euro­pean Uni­ver­si­ty in Budapest. Now he works as a Pro­gram Offi­cer cov­er­ing the entire Cen­tral Asian region for the Inter­na­tion­al Repub­li­can Insti­tute. Matt cred­its his expe­ri­ences on the CLS Pro­gram and work­ing in Cen­tral Asia for his career success.

In terms of the impact of CLS on my career tra­jec­to­ry, it’s clear that Russ­ian lan­guage is the key aspect that con­tin­ued from posi­tion to posi­tion, coun­try to coun­try. I’ve nev­er had two jobs in a row in the same coun­try, but every job I’ve ever had has involved speak­ing Russian.”


Alumni Profiles

Matthew Tappert
Matthew Tappert
Russian 2008
Tomsk, Russia

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Posted Date

January 08, 2020