Stream the PBS documentary about Andrew’s “Books Behind Bars” program.

Andrew D. Kaufman is an author, educational entrepreneur, teaching expert, social justice activist and Russian literature scholar whose work has been featured on The Today Show, NPR, PBS, and as well as in the Washington Post and the Moscow Times.

A nationally recognized expert on teaching innovation and service-learning, Kaufman is currently an Associate Professor and Assistant Director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at the University of Virginia, where he helps faculty across the country create profound learning experiences that change the lives of many through educationally-based social activism. At UVA, he created and teaches a renowned community-based literature course, "Books Behind Bars: Life, Literature and Leadership," in which university students and the incarcerated youth of Virginia have life-changing discussions inspired by the messages conveyed in Russian literature. The program has played a role in juvenile prison reform across the state of Virginia.The course has been featured in the Washington Post, on The Today Show, and on Russian national television, and it is the subject of the feature documentary film, Seats At The Table, which has appeared at film festivals throughout the United States (including SXSW EDU), France, and Great Britain. In 2020 Seats At The Table began to air nationally on PBS.

In addition to his teaching expertise, Dr. Kaufman is a nationally recognized Russian language, literature, and culture expert who has spent the last twenty-five years bringing the Russian classics to life for Americans young and old. Kaufman holds a Ph.D. in Slavic Languages and Literatures from Stanford University, and he’s the author of Give ‘War and Peace’ a Chance: Tolstoyan Wisdom for Troubled Times, and Understanding Tolstoy as well as co-author of Russian for Dummies. He was a featured Tolstoy expert for, and has appeared on various national and international TV and radio shows.

Dr. Kaufman is an in-demand keynote speaker who has spoken at TEDx, the Aspen Institute, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Leo Tolstoy Museum and Estate at Yasnaya Polyana, and at book clubs and libraries, corporations, prisons, and colleges and universities across the United States. A professionally-trained actor and long-time college professor, he is an entertaining and inspirational speaker who draws on the wisdom of great books as well as his journey as an educator to offer audiences nourishment for the mind and soul, while also providing them with practical insights that are immediately applicable to their own lives.

To learn more about Dr. Kaufman, please visit his website at

Speech topics


In this keynote, educational entrepreneur and creator of the nationally renowned Books Behind Bars program inspires the audience with riveting storytelling about the connective power of literature and how it can translate directly into social activism. Andrew conveys how to create social change by respecting the dignity of every human being, no matter what walk of life they may come from. When we, as a society, see the humanity in one another, we will be able to break down barriers, challenge harmful stereotypes, and create a community of greater empathy that can bring an end to the era of mass incarceration. Moving beyond the status quo requires bold, unorthodox thinking—something Andrew Kaufman knows about after having spent a decade building one of the country’s most innovative service-learning programs that brings together incarcerated youth and university students. This keynote offers a unique and inspiring take on how we can all do our part to make social change and combat mass incarceration.


In our fast-changing and unpredictable globalized world, teachers, college professors, and administrators alike are thinking hard about how best to equip students for the challenging world they’re about to enter. In this inspirational and entertaining keynote, Andrew Kaufman—educational entrepreneur, literature professor, and creator of the renowned Books Behind Bars program—reveals the five critical skills every high-school and college students must learn in order to succeed, lead, and make a positive impact on their world in the twenty-fist century: creativity, empathy, collaboration, self-reflection, and resilience. Kaufman draws on powerful examples from his own Books Behind Bars program, which international education expert Ken Bain calls “one of the most brilliant and highly effective examples of service-learning and learning by doing I’ve encountered,” and has been featured on The Today Show, NPR, Katie Couric and the Washington Post. Books Behind Bars is also the subject of a feature documentary film, Seats At The Table, airing nationally on PBS throughout 2020 and 2021.


The Gambler Wife: A True Story of Love, Risk, and the Woman Who Saved Dostoyevsky

An intimate new portrait of the bold and determined woman who saved Dostoyevsky's life—and became a pioneer in Russian literary history.

In the fall of 1866—against the backdrop of Russia's first feminist movement—an independent-minded young stenographer named Anna Snitkina went to work for a writer she idolized: Fyodor Dostoyevsky. The volatile and visionary novelist was already a celebrated literary provocateur, yet Anna found him "terribly unhappy, broken, tormented," sickened by epilepsy, anguished by the recent loss of his wife—and in thrall to a gambling addiction that kept him on the verge of emotional and financial ruin. 

Book out on AUGUST 31, 2021

Understanding Tolstoy 

Understanding Tolstoy recreates Tolstoy’s lifelong artistic and spiritual journey, taking readers to the core of the writer’s world through nuanced close readings of his major novels and novellas.

Give War and Peace a Chance: Tolstoyan Wisdom for Troubled Times

From a popular Tolstoy scholar: an entertaining, thought-provoking, and accessible argument for why War and Peace is more relevant to readers now than ever.

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