The following is a republished press release from Clark University and NOT written by the Ithaca Voice … click here to submit community announcements directly to The Voice, or contact me at

WORCESTER, MA — Aviv Hilbig-Bokaer, from Ithaca, a rising senior at Clark University, has embarked on a 7,000-mile journey aboard the Trans-Siberian Railway in an attempt to understand the connections between Russia and its literary canon. His project is funded by Clark’s Liberal Education and Effective Practice (LEEP) initiative.

Hilbig-Bokaer is spending approximately 17 days (and his 22nd birthday) on the trip.  He started in St. Petersburg and plans to make stops in Moscow, Yasna Polnaya (Leo Tolstoy’s birthplace) and Vladivostok.  He brought six books along with him, among them are Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina,” Vladimir Nabokov’s “Despair” and Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “The House of the Dead.” Hilbig-Bokaer plans to explore archives, libraries and museums along his route.  He’s chronicling his trip across Russia in a blog (Avivonatrain) as well as through photos on Instagram.

Hilbig-Bokaer majors in comparative literature and international development and social change.  Robert Deam Tobin, Henry J. Leir Chair in Language Literature and Culture, and Ellen Foley, associate professor of International Development and Social Change, are serving as his faculty advisers.

“I truly believe each day of this journey will broaden my ability to dive deeply into the texts that have shown Russia to the world for the past two centuries. And by the end of a 7 day train ride, perhaps I’ll even understand why the texts are all so sad,” he wrote in his blog on May 27.  More about his project is available on the Clark website.

Liberal Education and Effective Practice (LEEP) is Clark’s bold effort to advance liberal education, linking a deep and integrated curriculum with opportunities to put knowledge into practice in order to prepare students for remarkable careers and purposeful, accomplished lives.

(Featured photos courtesy of Clark University)

Now in its fifth year, LEEP projects have helped Clark University students pursue funded and directed problem-based summer projects. The projects—several of which are hosted by Clark alumni—offer real-world application of course material and provide an opportunity to engage with professionals outside of the University.  LEEP Projects also enable students to develop marketable skills, and focus on characteristics the University refers to as LEEP Learning Outcomes.

This summer, more than 100 undergraduates were awarded LEEP Fellowships to pursue projects ranging from international social action initiatives to internships with leading corporations. LEEP Fellows are expected to devote approximately 150 hours to their LEEP Project and participate in workshops on professionalism and project management.  LEEP Fellows complete a written reflection upon completion of their experience, are able to participate in the Hervey Ross Oratorical Contest each fall, and share results with the Clark community in one of the University’s annual undergraduate student research showcases.

“Students who are selected as LEEP Fellows progress through a competitive and intensive series of preparatory activities designed to help them successfully complete their LEEP Projects.  From proposal writing and résumé development, to professional communication and research skills, the LEEP Fellow experience helps prepare students to fully engage in the world and integrate their academic work with their professional interests,” said Michelle Bata, director of the LEEP Center at Clark.

Hilbig-Bokaer is a member of the Class of 2017. He is the recipient of a U.S. Department of State Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. He studied abroad in Berlin, Germany, this spring.

Hilbig-Bokaer is a 2012 graduate of the Lehman Alternative Community School.

Michael Smith

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.