headshot of ruslana

Hi, welcome to my page.

I am a Ukrainian American transplant living in the Midwest since 1995 (1995-2013 in Twin Cities, Minnesota, and Madison, Wisconsin since then).


  • Master’s in teaching English as a Foreign Language from Cherkassy University, Ukraine (1995);
  • Postgraduate work in Second Languages and Cultures at Hamline University (2005);
  • Doctorate in Educational Leadership (2014).
  • Author of a cross-cultural memoir From Borsch to Burgers, recounting my story of living in Ukraine, emigrating in 1995, and living in the Upper Midwest.

I make sense of the world using linguistics, more specifically sociolinguistics.  I observe how language construes culture and how culture is manifested through language.  My story as a language person didn’t start when I started learning English, but it started with my bilingual upbringing growing up in Ukraine. Ukrainian and Russian languages are related, but in addition to the natural mixing of languages, the Soviet regime aimed at wiping out the uniqueness of each Soviet Republic and one way of doing that was to impose the Russian language as the unifying language. The Russian language ideology not only impacted the spoken language, but also the writing systems. Asian language writing systems were transliterated into Cyrillic. Even names of Ukrainian cities and small villages received Russian pronunciation and when transliteration into Latin followed the Russian pronunciation. One example is Kyiv – most of you know it as Kiev.

I grew up in Central Ukraine where we spoke surzhyk, a mixture of Ukrainian and Russian. When we went to school, we had to speak the literary Ukrainian, while at home we spoke surzhyk.  When traveling to a city, we had to switch to Russian. This wasn’t bilingualism by choice. We switched between languages and dialects to belong, to fit in and to access whatever power structures available in the society only when you spoke a certain way.

Switching between languages did something to my identity. I was never really proud of being Ukrainian or speaking Ukrainian. I was a teenager. I needed to fit in. I wasn’t a confident linguist that I am now who can contest these ideologies.  I describe this journey in my memoir.

Language is such a huge manifestation of our identity. In fact, it had a bearing on the identity of our entire nation: are we worthy being our own nation with our own language? Reflecting on this whole phenomenon now, it was a clear case of marginalization: the nation’s language was marginalized in its own land. As a result, I have developed a heightened sense of justice toward linguistically marginalized people worldwide.

I have had the privilege of being an ESL teacher, teacher educator, and recently have received a doctorate degree and continue to be a teacher educator and a researcher. I currently work for WIDA as a researcher of using Systemic Functional Linguistics to support writing across disciplines for ELs.

I am available for public speaking engagements. Please contact me via the Facebook Author page.