A call for cooperation with Ukrainian faculty and students

January 10, 2023


Jacob Leonhardt

James Leonhardt, Professor of Marketing and Associate Professor of Marketing in the College of Business at the University of Nevada, Reno

Iryna Degtyarova

IRyna Degtyarova, Rector’s Delegate for Cooperation with Ukrainian Universities at SGH Warsaw School of Economics (Poland)

Headshot by Mehmet Tosun

Mehmet Tosun, Director of the Ozmen Center for Entrepreneurship, Director of International Programs, Professor of Economics and Barbara Smith Campbell Distinguished Professor of Nevada Tax Policy in the College of Business at the University of Nevada, Reno

To introduce you, the reader, to the conversations we’ve recently had with academics and representatives of Ukrainian higher education, we present a two-part blog series highlighting the key questions and answers generated during our recent meetings in Warsaw, Poland. were treated. These meetings took place thanks to our extensive partnership with the SGH Warsaw School of Economics. Our partnership with SGH began with a cooperation agreement signed in 2017 during an official trade and education mission led by President Brian Sandoval, then Governor of Nevada. We renewed our agreement with SGH in 2022, which included a new student exchange agreement.

At the Warsaw meetings, our focus was not on military strategy, politics or economics. Instead, we focused on gaining some understanding of the challenges faced by Ukrainian students and educators who are persevering in their educational endeavors despite the ongoing conflict. A key takeaway from these discussions was the need to raise awareness among US educators and administrators of the needs of Ukrainian educators and students, and most importantly, how we can support Ukrainian educators and students.

In this first article, we describe our conversation with Dr. Iryna Degtyarova, Rector’s Delegate for Cooperation with Ukrainian Universities at SGH Warsaw School of Economics. we met dr Degtyarova for the first time on October 28, 2022 at the SGH campus, while Dr. James Leonhardt was on his sabbatical visit to SGH and Dr. Mehmet Tosun visited Warsaw for a conference and other meetings. As a Ukrainian now working at the SGH Warsaw School of Economics, Dr. Iryna Degtyarova provides the necessary background and insight into how we can help students and teachers in Ukraine through our valuable partnership with SGH.

Please describe your current position for our readers.

dr Iryna Degtyarova: “I am the Rector’s Plenipotentiary for Cooperation with Ukrainian Universities at the SGH Warsaw School of Economics, a very close partner university of the University of Nevada. It is a new position focused on developing more systemic and long-term collaboration with Ukrainian higher education institutions to enhance our existing and future partnerships with the Ukrainian academic community. My academic background is actually in public education policy, specifically higher education, higher education administration and comparative studies of higher education in Ukraine and Poland and I am Ukrainian so I have wide expertise to do this.”

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How did the war affect education at your university? How are teachers and students adapting to the changes? What were the biggest challenges?

dr Iryna Degtyarova: “I will not present the perspective of the Ukrainian university, but a Polish one, my university SGH. But this question can be asked anywhere, especially in Poland. The day when Russia brutally attacked Ukraine on the morning of February 24, 2022 also changed our lives here. First, the Polish academic community and also the Rectors’ Conference CRASP jointly issued a statement condemning the aggression and expressing their solidarity with Ukraine, and our rector issued a statement and sent letters of support to our partner universities in Ukraine, in whom he offers support. The SGH academic community immediately launched several supportive and humanitarian actions, including driving to the Polish-Ukrainian border and taking in Ukrainian refugees, mostly women with children, and providing them with shelter, food and all kinds of social and humanitarian support. This was and is our mission and the mission of universities around the world to be responsible members of the community and make this important contribution to society. In total, SGH has taken in about 300 Ukrainian people and about 50 are still living in our dormitories. The university administration and the rector and chancellor play a major role in this! It is also important that the university supports students and staff of Ukrainian origin because this war affects all Ukrainians; it doesn’t matter where they live.”

“Next, we also acted within the framework of two other missions – educational and research missions, which support the Ukrainian academic community by providing opportunities for continued study or research, but on a temporary basis, with full respect for the preservation of the intellectual capital of Ukraine and preventing brain drain. And you know that we also have our own war loss. Our first semester student, Oleksiy Morklyanyk from Ukraine, was born on January 1stSt March trying to flee Kyiv. We mourn with all Ukrainian universities that have lost a number of students and teachers. But to end on something positive, I should say that since February SGH has intensified our cooperation with Ukrainian universities, established new partnerships, such as with Vasyl Stus Donetsk National University and Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, launched new research groups and projects, e.g Students Research The Group on Recovery of Ukraine, which gathers mostly SGH students of Ukrainian descent, is working on a report on the post-war reconstruction of Ukraine, and that too is unique. I don’t know of any other student groups that present such an analysis. SGH students did that.”

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Why is it so important for students (e.g. intellectually and emotionally) to ensure the continuation of higher education in Ukraine during this war?

dr Iryna Degtyarova: “According to my observations here in Poland, students, doctoral candidates and professors who came to Poland before the war tried to renew their academic life as quickly as possible. In addition, students want to belong to the community, be together and feel supported by their university. Even if they continue their studies at their home institutions in Ukraine, they want to study at a university here, in Poland or in other countries. That’s interesting because it’s not actually about education or knowledge. it’s bigger I think they see universities as a place for their integration into a new environment, for their social security and mental support from their peers, and for additional financial support from the system. So they indeed need this both intellectually and emotionally and also from a social and humanitarian point of view.”

What are the main challenges in ensuring the continuation of higher education in Ukraine? What are some specific needs of teachers and students?

dr Iryna Degtyarova: “We should distinguish between the needs of individual faculties or students and the needs of universities. In my opinion, the global academic community should try to help both ways, not just by providing scholarships to individuals. SGH receives information about the needs of our partner universities and currently it is mainly about humanitarian support. Due to the Russian attacks on critical infrastructure, generators, charging stations, accumulators and other devices are needed that can support university operations in winter. Scientific support is also in high demand, e.g. B. Mobility programs and joint research projects (short, medium or long term) which may involve more than one person.”

How can professors from USA help students and professors in Ukraine? How should interested lecturers get in contact with you?

dr Iryna Degtyarova: “All my colleagues know that it is possible and important and we can join our efforts with SGH Warsaw School of Economics. For humanitarian support, we organize fundraisers for various causes from time to time, which we can also share with you. I see the possibility of organizing further training courses, e.g. B. Further training for trainer programs, in particular for lecturers and students at business universities or at the university’s economics faculties, for the academic supervision of doctoral candidates (e.g. as co-supervisor in a cotutelle program). You can share your expertise with us. If you are interested in any kind of contribution, you can contact me. We have partner universities in Ukraine and we also cooperate with other organizations that can help to bring together or organize some activities. I believe that more joint projects are needed and together we can achieve a lot. My contact email address is [email protected], and you can also contact Professor Paweł Pietrasieński, Rector’s Plenipotentiary for Cooperation with the State of Nevada.”

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Finally, this conversation with Dr. Iryna Degtyarova that despite the ubiquitous media coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we often fail to see the human stories behind it. It encourages us to shift some of our attention from geopolitical and macroeconomic projections to the more concrete and personal task of reaching out to Ukrainian faculty and students who are living through this war. An important finding from this conversation and our conversation with Dr. Tetyana Oriekhova and Dr. Yuliia Honcharova in our forthcoming article “Supporting Higher Education in Ukraine: A Conversation with Ukrainian University Deans” is that we can help simply by working with Ukrainian faculty and students online. For example, based on the needs of a particular class, there are opportunities for university faculty to host virtual guest lectures, question-and-answer sessions, and class discussions between university students and students from Ukraine. We should also note that the College of Business and SGH Warsaw School of Economics will work together to find other ways to support higher education institutions in Ukraine.

In addition to the above contacts, faculty or company leaders can also contact Mehmet Tosun or James Leonhardt with related questions or suggest a topic to share virtually or teach to Ukrainian faculty and students.

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