Ludmilla Cricenko Wells

Alumni Profile

Bridging Economic and Cultural Gaps

When Ludmilla Gricenko Wells, MBA’81 (F-M), speaks, people on two continents listen. And with the publication of her two books, Wells will have a global audience.

An assistant professor of marketing at Florida Gulf Coast University’s College of Business in Fort Myers, Fla., Wells is an expert on the advertising industry in Russia and makes frequent forays there to consult and do research. “(Russia) is my home away from home,” she says.

The daughter of Russian immigrants, Wells is fluent in English, Russian and Spanish. She began traveling to Russia in 1990 while researching her dissertation, “The Role of Advertising in the Soviet Union.” Over the years, she has taught at Moscow University and provided seminars for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations.

More recently, Wells has served as liaison for the Citizens Democracy Corps (CDC), a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., seeking to strengthen the economies in Russia and Central and Eastern Europe. The CDC links experienced American consultants with small- and medium-sized businesses in those countries that are looking for expert advice.

During her last three trips to Russia, Wells consulted with companies in a variety of industries that wanted to develop their marketing plans. For example, Wells worked with a translation company, Fonetix Inc., also known as Inlingua. The company, like many in Russia, wants to expand into other markets. Wells initially looked at the company’s Web site and made suggestions to make the site more interactive.

“I feel very privileged to have been born in the United States. I’ve had the opportunity to live in and enjoy two cultures.”
— Ludmilla Gricenko Wells

In Tver, located about 180 miles northwest of Moscow, Wells was named to the board of directors of the Tver Marketing Research Center. There, she also worked with Afanasy Brewery, a bottling company that is attempting to expand import/export activity and to build a larger glass and bottling plant. “I helped with the company’s English translations, which needed some editing,” explains Wells.

The translation and editing work comes naturally to Wells. Though born in Newark and raised in Maplewood, N.J., she was exposed to another culture and language at home. Wells’ parents were born in Russia; emigrated in 1941 to Germany, where her older brother was born; and then journeyed to the United States. “I feel very privileged to have been born in the United States,” says Wells. “I’ve had the opportunity to live in and enjoy two cultures.”

Wells gained early acceptance and began her studies at FDU before transferring to an out-of-state college. After earning her BA in commercial art and a BBA (bachelor of business administration) in marketing, she again chose FDU when she decided to pursue her MBA. “At that time, it was normal for people in advertising to pursue an agency career. Instead, I went into the corporate side of advertising and saw it as a leg up the corporate ladder,” explains Wells. The decision paid off; Wells became the youngest female MBA ever hired by Blue Cross.

Wells credits Fairleigh Dickinson with giving her a solid foundation. “All of my courses at FDU stand out,” says Wells. “I attended FDU in the precomputer age, and I learned statistics and decision-making from a chalkboard.

“The faculty were professionals teaching professionals and understood many of the same issues you would experience in your career,” states Wells. She was able to emulate the professors she admired when she joined FDU’s faculty. “I graduated from FDU on a Saturday and began teaching as an adjunct the next Monday evening,” Wells recalls. At the University, Wells taught advertising, marketing and public relations.

“The faculty were professionals teaching professionals and understood many of the same issues you would experience in your career.”
— Ludmilla Gricenko Wells

Wells continues to enjoy teaching, while pursuing her research with passion. She believes the Russian culture is misunderstood in America and feels by studying the marketing and advertising in Russia, a cultural gap can be bridged. In working on her book, Then and Now: Advertising and Marketing in Russia in the 20th Century, Wells hopes to facilitate that cultural understanding.

Wells also is co-authoring Creating Advertising: Copywriting and Design, a bilingual Russian/English practitioner’s book with Eugenia Penkova, a professor from Moscow State University and the “godmother of marketing” in Russia. “She started the first major program for advertising in Russia, and I met her when I attended her class,” says Wells.

When not traveling, writing, researching or teaching, Wells finds time to sail and, as she calls it, “doing beach.” She says with a smile, “It involves nothing more taxing than sitting on the beach with some light reading and music.”

And while her work remains important to Wells, she is most proud of her family. “It sounds like a cliché, but my parents came to this country with less than $1 in their pockets. They truly lived the American immigrant experience and felt that education was the building block to a better life.” Wells personifies the realization of her parents’ immigrant dreams and continues to use her education to teach more people about the emerging economy and markets in Russia.


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