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Robbins to present Azerbaijan college life talk March 9

ISSUED: 16 February 2015
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — “Baku in the U.S.S.R.: How College Life in Azerbaijan Reflects and Resists Soviet Legacies” is the topic of the next Shepherd University Faculty Research Forum on Monday, March 9, at 1 p.m. in the Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies Auditorium. Dr. Joseph Robbins, assistant professor of political science, will discuss a trip he took to Azerbaijan in November 2014 where he gave a series lectures at several universities on American elections.

Robbins’ Faculty Research Forum talk will focus on what he learned about higher education and what college life is like for students and faculty in Azerbaijan, which is a former Soviet republic.

“The title of my talk references the Soviet legacies and how higher education in Azerbaijan continues to reflect some of these legacies,” Robbins said. “I’ll also talk about some of the struggles they’re having as they try to move beyond that Soviet legacy.”

Robbins said higher education in Azerbaijan is very centralized and all decisions are made by their national education department, whereas in the United States decisions are made mostly at the state or university level. He said while students in the U.S. can choose what university they attend, those in Azerbaijan have little choice in where they study.

Robbins also found similarities between college in the two countries. For example, students seem to have the same interests as their counterparts in the U.S., and everyday college life is not that much different.

“What really stood out to me is that a number of the students who approached me after the lectures were bright and fluent in English, often with no discernible accent,” he said. “There was one student who asked for a selfie after a talk, which floored me, because it’s such a common feature of society here but even there, a world apart, it’s something their students know about as well.”

Robbins’ lecture is free and open to the public. For more information, visit

Listen to Dr. Robbins interview HERE.

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