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Marina Kovalyov
Marina Kovalyov
Founding President
Director, Arts and Cultural Initiatives

Marina Kovalyov is highly regarded in Russian-speaking communities worldwide as both a cultural and business leader. After years of serving as Senior Curator at the St. Petersburg Museum in Russia, Marina worked as a chief curator at the Costumes and Textiles department at the Brooklyn Museum in New York.

In 1997 Marina Kovalyov co-founded the Russian American Foundation with the goal of building a bridge between the United States and former Soviet countries through art, cultural initiatives, and youth programming. Today, Russian American Foundation’s initiatives are highly recognized for their ongoing support of cultural dialogue on national and international levels, among those: Bolshoi Ballet Academy Summer Intensive Programs in the USA; NSLI-Y for Youth Scholarships to Study Language Abroad programs in Moscow, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs; Annual Russian Heritage Month®, founded in collaboration with the City of New York and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, and currently supporter by Mayor Bill de Blasio, among many others.


Besides RAF, Marina always finds time for other charitable causes and has served on the board of a number of community organizations including The Brownstone Experience Foundation and the Jewish Week.

Marina has been awarded numerous Honors and Awards for her contributions, including:

  • 2018 – “Trusted Partner Award”, Greater New York Chamber of Commerce

  • 2017 – Special recognition for outstanding contributions to New York City, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio.

  • 2017 – Award for “Outstanding Commitment to the Jewish Community”, COJECO

  • 2010 – Award for “Outstanding Contributions to the Jewish Community”, Queens Jewish Community Council, Inc.

  • 2008 – Award for “Contributions to the Successful Development of Cultural Life of New York”, The Office of the Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes

  • 2007 – Award for “Outstanding Contributions to the Cultural Life of New York City”, New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr.

  • 2006 – Award for “Outstanding Contributions to the Cultural Life of New York City”, New York City Council

  • 2005 – Award for “Outstanding Contributions to New York City”, NYC Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg

  • 2004 – Special recognition by Channel 13, “Immigrant Women Pursuing The American Dream”

  • 2000 and 1996 – “Woman of the Year”, United Jewish Appeal

  • 1994 – “Woman of the Year”, Long Island Business Association

Rina Kirshner
Rina Kirshner
Vice President
Director, BBA Programs in the US and RAF's NSLI-Y Programs in Russia

Rina Kirshner received her undergraduate education in international relations, finance and management at Wharton School of Business and University of Pennsylvania, and received her MBA in finance at NYU Stern School of Business, graduating with honors in all degrees. In her early years, she had a successful career in international business with a focus on Russia. However, after a number of years in the private sector where she experienced the complexity of US-Russian relations, Rina decided to dedicate herself to promoting Russian-American dialogue through non-profit initiatives in the fields of culture, education, sports, and health.


In 1997, Rina co-founded the Russian American Foundation (RAF). Since then, in her role as vice president of RAF, Rina has been an active champion of not only the Russian-speaking community in the U.S, but also of Russian-American relations globally. Rina has been instrumental in partnering with mainstream corporations, organizations, and media. Rina promotes bi-lateral dialogue through RAF’s initiatives and programs in various arenas including youth programming, cultural preservation, healthcare, entertainment, and others.

Rina’s personal passion is youth education: she launched and still oversees RAF’s annual Bolshoi Ballet Academy Summer Intensive programs in the U.S.; partners with the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and the American Councils for International Education on designing RAF’s NSLI-Y overseas exchange program; and has served as “principal for a day” in the highly acclaimed PENCIL private/public school initiative.

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