Three UM Students Win National Honors in Russian Essay Contest

May 14, 2014

MISSOULA – Students in the University of Montana Russian program again have received high honors in the American Council of Teachers of Russian National Post-Secondary Russian Essay Contest.

Dina Difort earned a gold medal for her essay at the heritage speaker first-year level, Dakota Whisler earned a silver medal at the nonheritage speaker third-year level and Emma Difort earned a bronze medal at the heritage speaker third-year level. Dina Difort’s essay received the highest ranking in the U.S. at her level.

In the contest, Whisler, of Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Dina and Emma Difort of Missoula, wrote short responses in Russian – with no dictionary or assistance – on the topic “An important decision in my life.”

More than 1,000 essays were submitted from the top Russian students at 58 universities, colleges and institutions. Judges in Russia then ranked the submissions. At least one student in the UM Russian program has received an award in the contest every year since 2007, and this is the second year Whisler and Emma Difort have medaled.

The program, within UM’s Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures, has produced strong majors in Russian language, literature and culture in recent years. Last year, three Russian language students received Fulbright awards to Russia, Georgia and Kazakhstan.

This year, one Russian program student, Christina Bloemen of Fort Collins, Colo., was offered a Fulbright Scholarship to teach English in Ukraine next year.

“The success of our students in the annual Russian essay contest and in earning prestigious grants and fellowships like U.S. State Department Critical Language Scholarships, Gilman Scholarships, Fulbrights and the highly competitive Boren Scholarship, speaks to the high quality of our program and our students,” said Clint Walker, associate professor of Russian.  

“My colleague, Ona Renner-Fahey, and I work very hard as teachers and mentors, and we couldn’t be more proud of our talented students.”

For more information call Walker at 406-243-2501 or email



Contact: Clint Walker, associate professor of Russian, UM Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures, 406-243-2501,