Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Massachusetts and the United States Must Support Ukrainian Students and Scholars

This blogpost is co-authored with Dr. Ladimer S. Nagurney. Since the latest war on Ukraine began on February 24, 2022, we, as many others around the globe, have been preoccupied with the unprovoked, unjustified invasion of this democratic, sovereign nation, with atrocities being committed by the Russian invaders that continue to escalate and to create horrific pain, suffering, death, destruction, environmental impacts, as well as supply chain disruptions.

We are both educators and are lucky to live in the state of Massachusetts with renowned higher education institutions that serve as a magnet for students and scholars from around the globe. Colleges and universities are the bedrock of democratic societies and now Ukrainian institutions of higher education are at grave risk because of the unprovoked aggression by Putin and his war on beautiful Ukraine and its people.
One of the major successes during the three decades of Ukrainian independence has been the development of a robust system of higher education. There are now several universities in Ukraine that, in terms of instruction and research, can compete on the world stage. In addition to domestic students, these institutions attract students from the developing and developed countries alike. The war on Ukraine presents immense challenges for Ukrainian universities. Because of the war, classes across Ukraine have been canceled; some, amazingly, have been moved to online formats, and some of the students, faculty, and staff have scattered, seeking locations of greater safety. Many of the able-bodied males, from ages 18-60, have joined the military or the territorial defense forces. Even females are assisting in the valiant fight for freedom of their nation.
The first author of this post is the Co-Chair of the Board of Directors (BOD) of the Kyiv School of Economics (KSE)  in Ukraine, a leading business school, and also serves on its International Academic Board (IAB), providing with fellow board members from universities such as the University of Chicago, Yale, Duke, UC Berkeley, SUNY Stony Brook, University of British Columbia in Canada, University of Houston, and Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany, guidance on curricula, research and scholarship and the teaching of faculty, as well as inputs into strategic plans. These are  voluntary roles. She serves on the BOD with a former US Ambassador to Ukraine (John Herbst) and on the IAB with Roger Myerson, a Nobel laureate in Economics, who is the Chair of the IAB. Since the Russian forces entered Ukraine on February 24, 2022, in significant numbers, without provocation, the BOD and IAB members have been holding many emergency meetings with the school administrators, some of which remain in the Kyiv area  to manage the school and its assets during this war. 
The courage of the students, staff, faculty, and administration at KSE and other universities in Ukraine is awe-inspiring. Students are working the supply lines from western Ukraine eastward, at risk to their lives,  to ensure food, water, and medicines and other supplies.  The KSE Foundation, in turn, is raising funds for humanitarian relief. The KSE administration is tracking the status of its students and faculty to see whether everyone is accounted for as many of them now engage in the battle for their country.  Our emergency meetings can get terrifying, since lights may be shut off in places where my colleagues in Ukraine are joining us virtually so as not to provide identification for targeting. And, when the sirens wail, they have to run for shelter.
Although some of the formal classes have stopped, education, nevertheless, continues through the hosting of webinars through KSE, and open to the public, of leading international thought leaders (David Petraeus, Paul Krugman, Michael McFaul, Nicholas Christakis, Nassim Taleb, to name a few) and of panels of KSE faculty, including the KSE President Tymofyi Mylovanov, VP Tymofii Brik, Director of the KSE Institute Nataliia Shapoval, and Vice President of Economic Education Oleg Nivievskyi, informing the public of  the impacts of the war. Having such educational events provides the KSE community (and us) with a "sense of normalcy." We do not know how long such events can continue given the escalation of the war and the great uncertainty plus risks.
It is important to emphasize that students educated at Ukrainian universities have assumed positions in the government, at various consulting companies, high tech companies, and many businesses.  The President of KSE Mylovanov is a former Minister of Trade of Ukraine and is also a Professot at the University of Pittsburgh.
There are many institutions of higher learning in Ukraine that need our support now. While numerous faculty senates and professional organizations in the United States have issued statements of solidarity with Ukraine and have condemned the war,  these are only the first steps. A second step, which is also very important symbolically, is to have universities issue Memoranda of Agreement (MOA) with universities in Ukraine. We are pleased that the University of Massachusetts Amherst entered into an MOA with KSE on March 14, 2022. This  agreement provides also very important psychological support and can be leveraged for additional funds to support individual students, researchers, and faculty from Ukraine, for short-term stays, for example.  In addition, options of reserving room in online classes for students in Ukraine, as well as those displaced by the war, can yield immense benefits. We are grateful to Kalpen Trivdei of the UMass Amherst International Programs Office for championing this MOA. One can also donate to foundations of Ukrainian universities, some of which are based in the US.

KSE, for example, is not only raising funds for humanitarian relief, but, in addition, is using its expertise and connections with government authorities to provide delivery of needed supplies in an effective, efficient manner even under conditions of extraordinary complexity and challenges.
Universities in Ukraine also need funding to pay their employees. We do not know the end-game for this war at this time but it is essential that higher education in Ukraine be supported in all manner possible, now, in the short-term as well as in the long-term.

Certain high tech companies are starting to enhance data preservation of Ukrainian universities. 

There is even a promising initiative in the works for a Ukrainian Global University with the Kyiv School of Economics and the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv leading the charge.
We hope that the US government and our well-endowed foundations can step up. The democracy of the free world is at stake. Massachusetts can lead in the efforts!