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'I go above and beyond to help the internationally hired faculty'

HSE University is more than just an outstanding University, but a unique environment, comprised of impressive communication, friendships and driven purpose. Disa Malbakhova, Department of Theoretical Economics  manager and the Faculty of Economic Sciences International office International Recruitment Coordinator,  illustrates her role at HSE University and the passion and love she has for her work.

'I go above and beyond to help the internationally hired faculty'

Jaunt and Joy of Em @unsplash

I am a senior student at the University of South Carolina, majoring in International Relations and Russian. In winter 2021 my advisor and past professor Dr. Kalb referred me to a virtual internship opportunity under the Head of International office in Moscow Mrs.Oxana Budjko. This is my first interview from the project of  my virtual internship with the Faculty of Economic Sciences International Office in Moscow Russia. It is my dream to study abroad in Moscow. Amid pandemic travel bans I’ve got a chance to virtually meet and talk to various Russians at HSE University (all of them invite me to Moscow and I hope to see them when I have a chance to travel!) to find out more about the people, the culture and Russian higher education syststem. While it is 8 pm in the evening Disa talks to me while still at work. If I did not intrude into her everyday schedule she would have been doing the numerous faculty course loads. Oxana Budjko, my temporary virtual boss, connects us from her home office which she did not leave from March 2020, when HSE University advised all senior employees to start working remotely. With the start of vaccinations in Moscow all essential employees and faculty, who wanted to teach in person, got back to the school. Oxana Budjko keeps her extensive hours of communication, coordination and consulting from home. 

Camryn Norwood,
student at the University of South Carolina, summer intern at the Faculty of Economic Sciences

Due to the time difference Disa graciously allowed me to interview her outside of work hours (which I guess are still work hours for her!). She explained everything from how she came about working for HSE University and as well as a thorough description of her responsibilities. Disa Malbakhova, particularly speaks on her current position as a Manager of the Department of Theoretical Economics, showcasing the dedicated -hard work and the enjoyments of her career.

Disa Malbakhova,
Department of Theoretical Economics manager, Faculty of Economic Sciences International office International Recruitment Coordinator

Disa has worked for the Higher School of Economics since December of 2017 for three and a half years. After spending one year as a Dean's Assistant in the Faculty of Economic Sciences she then started working for the department of theoretical economics and has currently been working at the department for more than two years as a department manager. Disa expressed how these were not her only responsibilities as she also works as an international recruitment coordinator in the international office with Oxana Budjko.

Before joining HSE University, Disa was employed by the child care centre in Moscow which empowered her with  a great deal of experience of working with expats, most being native speakers from the United States, Canada, and Australia. Disa speaks in fluent English with me. She reports her mother to be an English school teacher which was the reason she  began learning English as early as the age of three years old. Her native language is Kabardino-Circassian (East Circassian) where she grew up in the southern part of Russia. On top of Russian, East Circassian and English, Disa can speak colloquial Spanish, German and Turkish.  

Disa took the managerial job at the same time as her current boss became the Department head. Her every day tasks involved working with the Department head the most. He has worked as an Associate Professor for HSE University for almost 6 years now but particularly as the department head for more than 2 years. He is a respected and intelligent graduate of the MSU and New Economic School holding a PhD from PennState. Ultimately Disa believes that among everybody she works and interacts with, her boss is the most important to her work. Although, Disa also deals with all of the department staff, which is one of the biggest departments at HSE University with around 100 staff members, professors and lecturers. She also deals with the internationally hired scholars who are hired through international recruitment procedures at the Faculty of Economic Sciences, as well as works with Oxana Budjko. 

Can you explain the job market, and why you are “so busy all the time”?

I am so busy because I am working 2 jobs, but the job market is a part of our international recruitment in HSE University. We have an annual recruitment campaign  in the university, not only in economics, in all fields that we teach and do research. In our faculty we hire every year. In the economic job market we annually hire 3 or 4 candidates that have a PhD degree from leading western universities (Europe and US leading universities). Unfortunately this year because of the pandemic we only hired one, but a very strong candidate. Now we have 25 colleagues with PhD degrees that we've hired in the international academy job market. All are from great universities like PennState, Brown, Michigan, leading European Universities. They all have published papers in top level, highly ranked international academic journals. Seven of the international faculty are women. 

There are only 2 universities in Russia (HSE University and NES) which are doing the job market and hiring through the international academic market procedures.

It is hard to sketch a typical internationally hired faculty, since all assistant professors are all very different. Some of them are Russians while others are expats, but each of them are always very friendly, interesting, empathetic and willing to help you with anything. Disa describes how she views them as more than just her colleagues but also as friends and expresses how lucky she is and how wonderful it is that she gets to work with them.

Disa goes above and beyond to help her faculty, which means, sometimes working on tasks that are not her direct responsibilities. She tries to help everybody who asks for help, whether professor or student, and ultimately goes above and beyond her responsibilities which are mainly planning courses and teaching load in her department, bearing contracts with visiting lectures, research assistance, coordinating department seminars, but also does a fair amount of work that’s not in her typical job description. For example, sometimes Disa ultimately works as a professor's personal assistant.

'I can help with finding a kindergarten for the kids, dealing with the car repair shops and a lot of other similar tasks

When asked how Disa is surviving the pandemic and her takeaways from this situation she said for HSE University, it only meant a 3 month lockdown. But some colleagues are still working remotely while overall HSE University does not “feel” the pandemic. Although unfortunately some colleagues had COVID, the will and communication may have been even better than it was before the pandemic because HSE University helped make the “pandemic life” easier for everybody. 

HSE University staff fortunately did not feel the impact of the pandemic as much as other industries, and they even helped some universities with their digital approaches, online communications and other difficulties. Ultimately HSE University has been doing well, as well as they can be. 

What do you spend most time on at work?

I think everyday is different. It depends on the period, right now I deal a lot with the teaching load and spent the most time on this, but also I spend a lot of time on contracts of our internationally hired staff who passed their interim review. 

What do you like to do the most at HSE University?

I enjoy talking to people the most. Being a department manager is like being a psychologist. I cannot work like a robot and do typical administrative stuff because I put all my feelings and my soul into this job and I always try to listen. Communication is the most important part and interesting to me because everybody is unique.