Meet the Hosts
Born in Tiraspol, Moldova, Lera was happily raised in the suburbs of South-Eastern Pennsylvania and the land of Wawa. After getting her B.A. in Japanese from Penn State, she spent the next six years bouncing around between Japan, the DMV area, and Pittsburgh before finally landing in Texas to undertake a dual-degree Master's program in Global Policy Studies and Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies. Her research interests include U.S.-Russia relations, foreign diplomacy, grassroots exchange, and protest/dissent in Russia. She graduated in 2022 but she remains the Voice of SlavX. You can listen to her episodes here.
Cullan grew up in Boston and holds a B.A. from the University of Vermont in History and Political Science. He is finishing a dual master's in Global Policy Studies and Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies at UT Austin. His research interests include Czech history, 19th and 20th century Central Europe, uses of digital consumer media as tools for public history, national identity, and what do those demanding "historically accurate media" even mean? Before moving to Austin, Cullan worked in Vermont both as a paralegal and trivia host, which are critical experiences for any good podcast host. You can listen to his episodes here.
Sergio is a born-and-raised Austinite with a B.A. in philosophy from St. Edward’s University and a J.D. from Emory University School of Law. Prior to graduate school, Sergio was an Assistant District Attorney in Philadelphia. He is currently finishing his Master’s at UT Austin in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies and will be pursuing a PhD in Religious Studies. A native speaker of Romanian, Sergio primarily researches fascism and religion in interwar Romania. You can listen to his episodes here.
Taylor Ham is a second-year Master's student at the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies at UT Austin. She received her Master's in Global Policy Studies from the LBJ School of Public Policy, where she focused on national security, counterterrorism, and intelligence. Before attending UT Austin, she led the underwriting department at a bank in Waco, Texas where she worked as an Assistant Vice President and Credit Officer. She hopes to build upon the professional leadership and analytical skills gained in that role and apply them to a career in foreign policy and intelligence. You can listen to her episodes here.
Mykhaylo (Misha) Simanovskyy
Misha is a second-year graduate student pursuing a dual Master’s in Global Policy Studies and Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies at UT Austin. He obtained a B.S. in Political Science from Texas Christian University in 2021. Being a native of Donetsk, Ukraine, Misha is passionate about researching Russian foreign policy in its Near Abroad and the Middle East, US-Russia relations, and Ukrainian politics. He is a native speaker of Russian and Ukrainian and speaks Arabic and Polish at an intermediate level. After graduating from UT, Misha aspires to work in diplomacy, pursuing improvement of US-Russia relations and conflict resolution in Ukraine. You can listen to his episodes here.
Born in the waning days of Cold War, Zack grew up in the waters of southern California. While not surfing, swimming, fishing, he enjoyed political history, geopolitical affairs and exploring the depths of US-Russia relationship. Obtaining a B.A. in Political Science from San Jose State University, he examined the Soviet-Afghan war and the ‘Foreign Fighter Phenomenon’ seen during the conflict. He recently graduated from UT Austin with a dual-masters in Global Policy Studies and Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies with a focus on rural political activism in Russia and Western Business investment in Russia. Zack has traveled in western Russia and hopes to encourage greater dialogue with the Russian people! You can listen to his episodes here.
Katherine, originally from Houston, Texas, is a first-year dual-master's student in Global Policy Studies and Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies at UT Austin. An avid learner and lover of Europe, Katherine desired to demystify and learn more about Russia, one of the most complex nations within the region and world, long before attending UT Austin. Eastern and Central Europe hold special places in her heart, as her family lineage hails from the Czech Republic. In her free time, Katherine enjoys reading non-fiction books, learning languages such as Russian and German, and hiking. You can listen to her episodes here.
Eliza is a first-year graduate student in Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies at UT, returning to CREEES (and SlavX!) to continue the research she began as an undergraduate with the department. Her research interests include conceptions of prestige and belonging in cultural spaces, the malleability of white identity, and the co-optation of origin stories and myth as a rhetorical strategy. Outside the department, she practices Krav Maga, reads a lot of science fiction, tries to get people from the department to hang out with her, and spends time with her cat, Raskolnikov. You can listen to her episodes here.
Tracy is originally from Minnesota and has a Bachelor of Arts in Music from The University of Texas at Austin. In 2022, she completed a dual master’s program in Global Policy Studies and Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies. Her research interests include Czech history and culture, international food systems, democratization in Central and Eastern Europe, and the politics of corruption. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, walking for hours, and playing the trombone. She is currently a Global Intelligence Analyst at AlertMedia. You can listen to her episodes here.
Katya grew up in Northern Virginia and frequently spent summers in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), her paternal homeland in Northeastern Siberia. Her research interests include revitalization of Indigenous languages and cultures in Russia, current tensions relating to Russian (ethno)nationalism and minority group (ethno)nationalism. Her non-research interests include tending to her plant children, collecting insects, eating pickles, and giving strangers unsolicited podcast recommendations. Katya was supervising producer during seasons 2 and 3. She spearheaded the first campaign to take SlavX on the road to ASEEES in 2019. Listen to her episodes here.
Samantha is from San Antonio and is particularly proud of being a Central Texas local. She attended UT as an undergraduate, earning bachelor's degrees in History and Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies, with minors in Comparative Literature and Women’s and Gender Studies. She recently graduated from UT with a master’s degree in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies as well as a portfolio in LGBTQ+ Studies. She is now pursuing her PhD in Slavic Languages and Literature at the University of Michigan. Listen to her episodes here.
Milena DK **Original Host
One of the original hosts of The Slavic Connexion, and one of the few undergraduate team members, Milena graduated from UT Austin with a major in Eastern European Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, and the Persian language. She is highly interested in studying cultures ranging from Eastern Europe and the Balkans to Iran and Central Asia. Milena is especially interested in the phenomenons of nation-building, national identity, and inter-ethnic conflict that are so problematic in this region. Ukraine especially fascinates her because of its important geopolitical position, complex cultural identity, and its ongoing debates about nation-building and democracy. Listen to her episodes here.
Lauren Nyquist **Original Host
One of the original hosts and undergraduate team members of The Slavic Connexion, Lauren graduated from UT Austin with BAs in International Relations and Geography, minoring in Russian Language and African Studies. Currently, Lauren is pursuing her PhD in Geography at Texas A&M University. Outside of work and class, Lauren works on environmental management and sustainability initiatives in central and southern Texas, and on public education policy in Houston, where she grew up. In other words, she totally rocks. Listen to her episodes here.
Matthew Orr **Co-Founder
A co-founder of SlavX, Matt is a native Texan from the Houston area. He's attended George Washington University, majoring in Russian Language and Literature and has spent time in Russia on a Fulbright scholarship. He graduated from UT Austin with a dual master’s degree in Global Policy Studies and Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies. His research interests include civic education, democratization in the Post-Soviet space, contemporary Russian literature and US-Russian relations. He is now a Eurasia Analyst at RANE. Listen to his (many) episodes here.
Thomas Rehnquist **Co-Founder
"The Podfather" of SlavX, Tom graduated from UT with a dual master’s in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies and Global Policy Studies at UT Austin. He is concentrating on the strategic interaction between global powers, with a focus on the future relationship between the United States and Russia. Tom’s attraction to cybersecurity buds from the growing use of non-military levers to conduct geo-political warfare, a strategy assumed to proliferate in the coming years. Tom graduated from Bowdoin College in 2016 with a degree in history. During his years at UT, he spent way too much of his time on The Slavic Connexion but as one of the co-creators, how could he not? Having worked for Stratfor, he is now a senior analyst with Booz Hamilton in D.C. Listen to his episodes here.