EKU's Reach, Reputation Extend into Siberia

photo of Schumann at presentation

Not many Americans have any great desire to travel to Siberia.

But Dr. Michael Schumann’s interest in the region has helped extend the reach and reputation of Eastern Kentucky University into that scenic but often forgotten part of the world.

Schumann, a professor of occupational safety in EKU’s School of Safety, Security and Emergency Management (SSEM), recently conducted a two-hour webinar broadcast to seven host sites in Siberia. In attendance were safety coordinators, supervisors and managers, as well as government officials, plant managers and university professors from safety engineering schools there.

The webinars followed a visit by Schumann in August 2013, when he and translator Katya Trent, an EKU graduate, made two presentations in Irkutsk (pop. 700,000) and conducted a training session on the shores of Lake Baikal, outside Ulan-Ulde (pop. 400,000).

In fact, it was the lake – the world’s largest and deepest fresh-water lake – that first attracted Schumann’s attention.

“I had read about Lake Baikal in Siberia years ago, probably when I was in high school or college,” Schumann said, “and I decided I would like to visit there someday. It is an absolutely amazing place. I could talk about it for hours.

“When I was in China a couple of years ago, I was looking at a map and recalled thinking about the lake when I saw it on a map. So when I was thinking about where I would like to go and do some project work, I thought of Siberia and Lake Baikal.”

Noting that the EKU SSEM program has enjoyed “quite a few” Russian students over the years, he approached Trent, by now working on a research project at EKU, to see if she would serve as his translator. “She loved the idea, so I had her contact several of the universities in the larger cities around the lake area. The person she received a response from was from the Ministry of Labor who liked our idea of coming to Siberia to do several speeches and/or training on U.S. industrial safety. He was mainly interested in the new U.S. International Standard on Management Systems, ANSI Z-10 (2012).”

The webinar originated from Schumann’s office in the Stratton Building and reached attendees in the Siberian cities of Irkutsk, Ulan-Ulde, Kemerovo, Novokuznetsk, Krasnoyarsk, Chelyabinsk and Norilsk. A potential eighth city, Tomsk, experienced equipment issues.

A part of Russia since the 17th century, Siberia constitutes 77 percent of the Russian land mass but only 28 percent of its population.

 Schumann said the region’s needs “appear to be great, given my observations of their construction techniques, highway construction techniques and lack of many safety procedures. Their equivalent to our OSHA regulations appears to be somewhat similar, but their enforcement policies are extremely different. The government is somewhat powerless to really enforce their regulations and, once they have had an inspection, employers are exempt from further inspections and enforcement for three years, even if they have had violations.”

EKU’s School of Safety, Security and Emergency Management offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate degree programs, both on site and online, encompassing Emergency Medical Care; Fire Protection Administration; Fire, Arson and Explosion Investigation; Fire Protection and Safety Engineering Technology; Homeland Security; Occupational Safety; and a Traffic Safety Institute. The master’s program in Safety, Security and Emergency Management is the only one of its kind in the nation. For more information, visit ssem.eku.edu.

Published on March 25, 2014