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They Wrote the Book

Dr. Alvin Z. Rubinstein Gr’54 admits that he learned more about President Clinton’s foreign policy than he had expected to during the course of co-editing The Clinton Foreign Policy Reader last year. That may be, but whatever the political-science professor absorbed during that project was nothing compared to what his two co-editors—Albina Shayevich and Boris Zlotnikov—learned during that same period of time.
    Shayevich and Zlotnikov, you see, are Penn undergraduates —seniors now, though they began to work on the project at the end of their sophomore years. And the fact that they now have a published book on their résumés is owing to the confidence and scholarly generosity of Rubinstein —and to their own keen interest, ability and hard work.
    Rubinstein conceived the idea in the spring of 1999 for The Clinton Foreign Policy Reader, which was recently published by M.E. Sharpe. The book would consist of 50 of Clinton’s speeches (or excerpts) on foreign-policy issues, divided into eight chapters—from “Strategic Outlook for a New World Order” to “Weapons of Mass Destruction: Coping with Twenty-first Century Threats”—each set off by an introduction of several thousand words.
    Rubinstein began working on it in April 1999, by which time Zlotnikov, a student in his international-relations classes, had already impressed him as a work-study student.
    “At that time I thought it would be interesting for him and helpful to me if I could enlist Boris in the effort to look up speeches of the Clinton Administration on different topics and see what would have to be cut,” Rubinstein recalls. “So I asked him if he would like to participate, and told him that if he did he would be co-editor of this volume. He was quite excited and said he would be happy to do so.”
    The pressure would be on, Rubinstein warned, because the entire manuscript—the edited speeches and the chapter introductions—had to be finished by the end of July. They got to work, and “somewhere around the early or middle part of June, Boris came in with Albina and said she would be interested in working on it, and would it be possible for the two of them to work together.” Rubinstein, who had taught Shayevich in two classes already, quickly agreed.
    Both students have a keen interest in international relations, which is not unrelated to their backgrounds. Zlotnikov, who is majoring in economics and international relations, was born in Kiev and came to the United States in 1991. Shayevich, who is majoring in psychology and international relations, was born in western Ukraine, and when her family moved to Rhode Island a decade ago she found her classmates somewhat “culturally unaware,” and realized that she “missed Russian politics and literature.” When she came to Penn, one of her goals was to pursue her interest in those areas.
    “I think that when we met each other, we actually reinforced each other’s interest in international relations,” says Shayevich. “because we were so interested in politics and international relations that we talk about it the way some other kids talk about gossip and things like that.”
    According to Shayevich, she and Zlotnikov had engaged in many “long conversations” with Rubinstein after class, and “he treated us more as colleagues than as students.”
    “I got the impression that he thought we were promising,” adds Zlotnikov. “It meant a lot to us.”
    They agreed to split the chapter introductions in half—Rubinstein would write four, and Shayevich and Zlotnikov would write two apiece. Rubinstein had final say on editorial matters, and notes that the students got a healthy dose of real-world editing.
    “The most important thing they may have learned is how difficult writing and publishing can be,” he adds. “Writing term papers can give you a false impression of how easy the process is.”
    In the end, he says, the essays “were very, very good—tightly written and clear, and they discernibly had input into all of them.”
    “I had no idea what writing a book was really like,” says Zlotnikov. “Such things as negotiating with the publisher, how it’s all put on the diskette, and separating what belongs in a conversation or a research paper and what belongs in a book.”
    “It was a very valuable experience for undergraduate students,” says Shayevich. “It prepared us for a lot.”

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