Philanthropic 50: Susan Carmel

The American University’s Carmel Institute of Russian Culture and History, launched in 2015 by real estate investor and philanthropist Susan Carmel, aims to broaden student awareness of Russian life and culture by hosting concerts and funding student summer travel to St. Petersburg and Moscow. Structured as an exercise in cultural diplomacy, it also offers courses in Russian literature. It has, however, drawn criticism – even inside A.U. itself – for not speaking up about Moscow’s attempts to influence the 2016 elections and its incursions in Ukraine and Crimea. A year ago the university’s own newspaper The Eagle, called the institute’s activities controversial because it “host[s] events featuring Russian cultural figures who are supportive of Putin.” The institute has not cut back or changed its programs, sticking to its stated belief that people-to-people programs are the way to better understanding. “All you are seeing are Cold War stereotypes,” Lehrman told the paper. “How do you get young people to understand each other and work together and get along better?”

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