CREEES MA Students

Alexa Black

Alexa graduated from the University of California Los Angeles with a double major in History and English Literature and a minor in Russian Language. As an undergraduate, she completed a semester at University College London and an immersive Russian program with American Councils in Almaty, Kazakhstan. In 2020 she was awarded a Boren Scholarship to complete the Russian Overseas Flagship Capstone program, conducted virtually from Al-Farabi Kazakh National University. Alexa’s research interests include national identity building in the Soviet context and environmental justice in Soviet and modern Central Asia.

Benjamin Bronkema-Bekker

Benjamin Bronkema-Bekker graduated with Highest Honors from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in political science, international studies, and Russian. His thesis assessed the role of internally displaced pensioners in bringing a resolution to the Donbass conflict. Ben has professional experience in environmental and labor organizations, and has conducted research for Stanford’s Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence and Centers for Equity, Community, and Leadership. He is interested in post-Soviet peace, conflict, and security studies, as well as technology, environmental, and U.S. foreign policy.

Xingru Chen

Xingru Chen graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University with a double major in Russian Language and Finance. She spent her junior year studying at Pushkin State Russian Language Institute in Moscow. She aspires to learn and apply interdisciplinary knowledge into the studies of political economy of Russia and evaluations of business opportunities in Post-Soviet countries. During her college years she interned at CHN-RUS Energy Cooperation Investment Fund, People’s Daily, Institute of New Structural Economics at Peking University, Center for Public Diplomacy Studies, and worked as a volunteer for several business and cultural exchange activities between China and Russia. As a CREEES student, Xingru hopes to probe into economic and political dynamics between China and Russia/Central Asia and improve her mastery of the Russian language.

Estelle Ciesla

Estelle Ciesla graduated from University College London with a B.A. in Politics, Sociology and East European studies. During her undergraduate career, she served as student president of the School and Slavonic and East European Studies. Estelle spent a year in Russia, living in Saint Petersburg, Moscow and Kazan. Her academic interests include surveillance studies and technopolitics. She has written her undergraduate dissertation on the impact of facial recognition cameras in Russia. At CREEES, she plans to further investigate the impact of technology on Russian politics by exploring how Russian opposition groups use social media to mobilize support.

Katherine Davidson

Katherine Davidson graduated from Bowdoin College with majors in Russian with a concentration in area studies, and Government with a concentration in international relations. Her honors thesis analyzed the US and UK policy formation process in response to Russian disinformation in 2016 elections and assessed the impact of structural differences on government responses. Kate has interned for Praescient Analytics, a data analytics company, the US House Committee on Homeland Security, and GameOn Technology, which offers intelligent chat applications. Her academic interests include Russian exercise of sharp power, foreign policy dynamics of the near abroad, the relationship between technology and international security, and Russian poetry.

Saga Helgason

Saga Helgason is Icelandic and graduated with distinction from the University of Iceland in 2019 with a BA degree in Russian Studies and a minor in Business Administration. Her BA thesis explored the changing attitudes of historians on the origins of the Cold War, focusing on security concerns. After graduation, she spent the summer in Moscow at the Pushkin Language Institute to further her Russian language skills and immerse herself in the culture. Saga has completed one year of the MA program in Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Iceland whilst interning at The Arctic Institute, as part of the Institute’s podcast team. She spent the summer of 2021 at Íslandsbanki, working on the bank’s Sustainable Financing Framework, with particular focus on seafood companies. Through the CREEES program, she plans to deepen her academic interests in international security, sustainable energy and natural resource management, US-Russia relations and Arctic geopolitics. Saga hopes to further her career in Arctic affairs given the region’s strategic implications for the US, Russia and Iceland.

Christina Hill

Christina Hill graduated from Columbia University in 2019 with a bachelor's degree in History and Slavic Studies. Her senior honors thesis analyzed the KGB’s active measures in the Global South during the Cold War. Following graduation, Christina spent a summer in Almaty, Kazakhstan interning at the US Consulate General and later remained in Almaty to study Russian and work as a Princeton in Asia fellow. In 2020, she began working as a staff assistant for US Senator Brian Schatz in several of his issue areas.  Christina has a career interest in international policy and security and hopes to attend law school to focus on international law after receiving her masters degree from CREEES.

Grace Kier

Grace Kier graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the College of William & Mary with a B.A. in Government and a B.A. in Russian and Post-Soviet Studies. As an undergraduate, she studied at the Saint Petersburg State University and the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) and wrote her capstone on state building efforts in Gagauzia. Following graduation, she was a James C. Gaither Junior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where she researched Russian foreign policy and military activity. Grace’s writing has been published by Foreign Policy, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, and Her research interests include U.S.-Russia arms control and the separatist states of the former Soviet Union.

Rachel Landau

Rachel Landau graduated with honors from Brown University, where she concentrated in Literary Arts and Slavic Studies. She has been a poet-in-residence at Pushkinskaya-10, an intern at the Partnership for Russian, Eurasian, and East European Folklore, and a participant in CAMP AS ONE. After graduating from Brown in 2020, Rachel interned remotely at PEN America’s Eurasia department, where she researched and wrote about the intersection of cultural work and free expression in the region. Her academic interests include poetics, radicalization, and non-conformist art. Outside of her primary research, Rachel writes and translates poetry.

Rajiv Sinha

Rajiv Sinha graduated from University College London (UCL) with a B.A. in Politics & East European Studies in 2020.  As part of this degree, he spent a year at the Higher School of Economics (HSE) in Moscow, specialising in Russian language & culture, media studies, and business.  Since undergraduate study, Rajiv has worked at a fast-growing startup in London in the field of music technology.  He has held various positions within the Green Party of England & Wales, completing a term as Treasurer of the Young Greens in July 2021.  He is also a board trustee on the Paddington Development Trust, a charity dedicated to alleviating poverty and inequality in deprived areas of London.

Alexandra Steiner

Alexandra Steiner

Alex graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a double major in International Studies and Russian with a specialization in Global Security. Before Stanford, she spent two years at the National Endowment for Democracy, where she worked on politics, human rights, and independent media in Eurasia. In addition to two intensive Russian immersion programs, Alex received an academic year FLAS Fellowship to complete the Russian Overseas Flagship Capstone Program in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Her interests include post-Soviet democratization, US-Russian relations, and the interactions between politics, historical memory, and civic consciousness in Central Asia. Alex is from Portland, Oregon.


True Sweetser

True Sweetser is a coterm student who completed an undergraduate degree in History and a minor in Slavic Languages and Literatures at Stanford. Within history, his focus is on Russian history, particularly the history of political thought, and this intersects with his interests in Russian literature and the Russian view of reality. At CREEES, True plans to continue his studies of Russian history and literature, particularly during the Soviet era, and to grapple with depictions of Russian nationalism in the past and present. During his previous years as an undergrad, True was a member of the varsity Stanford Men’s Swimming and Diving Team and the USA Swimming National Team, where he represented the US internationally at multiple world championships and the Pan American Games.