From Russia, with love

For the Zudin family, GPS has offered a platform for global impact and familial support throughout the decades  

Feb. 14, 2019 | Rachel Hommel | GPS News

Zudin familyYou could say Nikolay Zudin, 2020 MIA candidate was raised at the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS). Commuting from San Clemente, Vera Zudina ‘96 fondly remembers the camaraderie she received as a single mother in graduate school. Her classmates not only became her biggest support network, but the best babysitters.

“When Nick was very sick, I would take him with me because I couldn’t miss classes and didn’t have money for a babysitter,” said Vera. “I was always overwhelmed by the support from the community, the friendliness and the openness. Everything was new, but this support helped to overcome all the difficulties.”

Focused on international management, Vera quickly climbed the ladder after graduation with executive positions in finance and then in the industrial sector in Russia, including managing director at Franklin Templeton Investments Russia and director of international projects for United Aircraft Corporation Russia. Yet it was the lessons learned at GPS that have remained true today, as she now faces a career transition from state-owned corporations to private sector.

“The courage to face challenges is what GPS taught me,” said Vera. “It gave me a multi-dimensional perspective and the ability to find a common language. We are all different and I love that challenge when working with each client of mine.” 

Zudin familyThe same spirit echoed true for her son Nikolay, developing strong diplomatic and communication skills from his mother. After working in research and policy design in Moscow, he wanted to rise up to the increasing challenges he saw Russia facing and was eager for a more multinational environment as he pursued a master’s degree.

“My career was mostly related to the public sector and I felt I needed a transition. I wanted to do real hands-on projects and gain private sector skills,” said Nikolay. “At GPS, I could leverage my previous research skills while accessing new hard skills for the private sector.”

Following in the same track as his mother, Nikolay has always been interested in international business in general and specifically in China. At GPS, he is learning Mandarin and is eager to take management and global economy related classes with the hope to acquire an internship in business development or impact investing in the U.S. or Eastern Asia.

“Russia and China started almost from the same point, but China did a lot right. I want to leverage my experiences learned here when I return back to Russia,” said Nikolay.

Nikolay ZudinVera echoes the same reflection, particularly regarding the need for language and international collaboration, having worked with high rank government officials, military and engineers. For the mother son duo, foreign partnerships matter.

“I truly believe all our cross-border relationships suffer because people don’t know how to speak to each other,” said Vera. “Russia is a closed book for many people. Americans need to deal with Russia, speak with each other and find a consensus on global issues.”

Currently at GPS, Nikolay is working alongside Professor Tai Ming Cheung as a research assistant, engaged on a project on Great Power Competition between the U.S., China and Russia. The two-year, University of California-wide project will afford him an opportunity to showcase his passion for project management and Russia. 

“I hope I can give students a better understanding of Russia. It’s not just an authoritarian state,” said Nikolay. “There are a lot of great things in our culture, business and research that Russia has to offer.” 

Vera shared that she hopes GPS will give Nikolay not only academic knowledge but an international experience and approach, all while teaching him to be a citizen of the world.

“I want him to be multinational in his soul, to get a broader knowledge and experience to make conscious decisions in his life,” said Vera.

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