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The Russian International Olympic University (RIOU) today awarded its inaugural intake of students their Master of Sport Administration (MSA) qualifications after they all successfully completed the University's Olympic-focused 10-month program of study.

The MSA course started on 16 September 2013, with 27 students hailing from 14 countries (Russia, Uganda, Armenia, Ukraine, India, Poland, USA, Germany, Guatemala, Sri Lanka, Brazil, Kazakhstan, Botswana and Korea). The majority of students — now graduates — are representatives of National Olympic Committees (10 of the 27 students came from NOCs) and sports industry employees. 

Among the student group were renowned Polish swimmer and Olympic champion Otylia Jędrzejczak; American ice hockey player and Olympic medalist Molly Engstrom; and Botswana sprinter Obakeng Ngwigwa.

Obakeng Ngwigwa and RIOU Rector Professor Lev Belousov

Enrolment competition for the first MSA program was as many as 4 people per a place. Due to the campus was included in the Sochi-2014 guest allocation program the volume of applications for MSA course was highly limited.

During the 10-month course the MSA students studied modules such as Economics of Sport and the Olympic Games; Governance, Politics and the Olympic Movement; Research Methods in Sport Management; Sport and the Olympic Games as a Business; and Sport Marketing and Communications. All classes were taught in English by leading Russian and international professors.

The Foundation is proud to have suggested scholarships to RIOU students. High quality education, such as master programs all over the world, regularly, are very expensive. The costs must cover the upper level professors and instructors, new training techniques and manuals’ development, use of new educational methodologies, etc. In the West, there exist a well-developed system of bank loans and stipends, which old and famous universities can provide to good students.

Many of the students were well supported financially whilst they carried out their studies. The Vladimir Potanin Foundation provided 20 scholarships, while two students from Kazakhstan were supported by scholarships from the Bolashak Foundation, as well as grants from the Astana Presidential Professional Sports Club. US NOC and international communication agency JTA provided a grant for the American student.

The Executive Director of the Vladimir Potanin Foundation Oksana Oracheva was present at the ceremony to congratulate the graduates and to greet twenty new alumni of the Foundation’s program. They joined a large family of program participants, which is now more than 15,000 people. The Foundation continues Olympic Scholarships competition which it launched in January 2014. The program aims to provide future sport managers with the chance to receive high quality professional training at the RIOU in 2014-2015. Competition budget — 20 mln rub. Competitors can apply till June 30.

Vladimir Potanin Foundation COO Oksana Oracheva, graduate Anastasia Akhtyrskaya, Mayor of Sochi Anatoly Pakhomov

RIOU MSA graduate from Russia, Ivan Belyaev, said: "I've learned a huge amount about the operations of the Olympic Movement and the Olympic Games in my time at RIOU. The practice programme during the Games absorbed all my focus and fascination and was an invaluable experience which a lot of my future competitors on the employment market simply don't have. My year in Sochi has been the best year of my life so far and I have made a lot of friends. There is a great inquisitive atmosphere at RIOU amongst the students and professors, and this comes from the University's cultural diversity. This will remain one of my lasting impressions of RIOU, as well as the Games of course."

At the final stage of the program the students worked on individual research projects in various areas of sport management. The training culminated in the presentation of their research papers, which was the final requirement to gain a Master of Sport Administration qualification from RIOU. RIOU MSA graduate from Armenia, Anna Martirosyan, said: "I can't wait to use all the knowledge I have learnt here, in my own country. As my career progresses I would like to promote sport in Armenia and help our athletes reach new Olympic heights."

One of the most pleasing aspects of the graduation ceremony was the pledge by RIOU's MSA graduates to start a RIOU Alumni Club. Otylia Jędrzejczak added: "When our Alumni Club gets underway, it'll be easier to network and share information about professional opportunities in the sports industry. Making contacts with new people and learning about their ideas opens new avenues. I am sure that the wider your social network, the more chances you have of using your knowledge and skills to benefit your personal growth and help develop global sport. This final goal is of course why we decided to go into the sports industry in the first place."

Congratulating the graduates at a special ceremony, RIOU Rector Professor Lev Belousov said: "In September 2013 you came to Sochi to study at RIOU. And that was an important moment for us — one we had been preparing for, for a number of years. We built the campus, developed the MSA course, attracted the best lecturers and adjusted the University's operations to accommodate you all. We have had a successful start together by working very hard together throughout this year. I have no doubts that you will always remember the time you spent at RIOU because the ordinary routine of studies was enlivened by so many thrilling and colourful events — making friends with students from other countries and continents, meeting renowned professors and experts, famous politicians and sport leaders. And, most importantly, the 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games! "The practice programmes at the Olympic venues gave you professional skills on a new level. The academic knowledge from the course and the invaluable practical experience have equipped you for a completely new chapter in your careers and lives. I would like to wish you good luck and every success on this new path!"

Professor Belousov also announced the establishment of the RIOU endowment fund and expressed his confidence that RIOU's graduates will make contributions to its development and keep supporting their alma mater.

RIOU will soon be closing its application process for the Russian language and English language versions of the Master of Sport Administration course for the 2014-2015 academic year.