Western University’s Ivey Business School in London, Ontario, Canada,
Just 10 hours before Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Ivey Business School professor Gerard Seijts was teaching a virtual session to executive students enrolled at the Lviv Business School of Ukrainian Catholic University.
As he watched the invasion unfold half a world away, Seijts penned an email to Ivey faculty, challenging them to come up with ways that Ivey could respond.
“You can imagine what that must have felt like, knowing that the students in your class all knew what was probably coming to them,” Seijts, an associate professor and director of MBA programs at Ivey, tells Poets&Quants. “At the same time, we run a 12-month MBA at Ivey, starting at the beginning of March.
“It just seemed to us that we had to do something.”
‘WE ALL HAVE A ROLE TO PLAY’
Just over a month later, Ivey is preparing to welcome 12 Ukrainian business students – most of them women, some with children – to its accelerated MBA program, free of charge.
Students will be provided housing, a $1,500 stipend/scholarship, and travel expenses through vetted organizations helping Ukrainian people displaced by the war. Students may also enroll at a later date to its full-time program.
“As global citizens, we all have a role to play in advocating for and supporting global issues and humanitarian outreach as a consequence of situations like the war in Ukraine,” Ivey Dean Sharon Hodgson says.
“As a school, we must continue to make every effort to educate responsible leaders who can contribute to an open, inclusive, and sustainable world.”
12 UKRAINIAN STUDENTS EXPECTED ON CAMPUS
Ivey’s MBA Ukrainian Student Academic Shelter Program offers displaced graduate business students free enrollment to its Accelerated MBA and MBA programs on an exchange basis. Fremeth, Ivey’s E.J. Kernaghan Chair in Energy Policy, is helping to spearhead the effort with other staff from Ivey and Western University, Ivey’s home University located in London, Ontario.
Ivey has been working with representatives at schools with which they or Western University have had previous strong relationships, namely Lviv Business School and the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. They’ve identified 12 students to date who are enrolled in a masters-level program in business, finance, marketing, technology, or economics. Many of these student have been displaced across Europe, Fremeth says.
The B-School is also working with faculty from Western University and Western International, a school within WU, whcih is helping students with the visa and immigration process. Fremeth hopes to be able to welcome the students to Ivey in the next couple to few weeks.
“We had the opportunity, and we felt, with the values that we hold dear at Ivey, that we had to act,” Fremeth says. “So we had, what I would say, honestly, are some of the most difficult conversations I’ve ever had with contacts in Ukraine at the early, early days of the war. These were women who were on the move, they didn’t know what the future of their institution would be–physically in terms of academic space, or whether students would return or the faculty would return. That just provided us even more impetus to act and to provide these students a bridge to, hopefully, what will be a more productive future.”
Most Ukrainian men, aged 18 to 60, are banned from leaving the country to help in the war effort.
FUNDRAISING EFFORTS TO SUPPORT UKRAINIAN STUDENTS
Fremeth calculates that the endeavor will cost about $1 million in tuition, housing, travel, and living expenses. Support from a donor made it possible to provide housing for the students, according to a press release.
“We are also working with the local Ukrainian community to help provide support to ensure that students feel like they are part of, not just the business school, but the broader community,” Fremeth says.
Ivey is raising money to support the students, and Western University on March 30 announced $600,000 in new funding for direct financial support for students and scholars displaced by war in their home countries.
“Our goal is to create new pathways to Western for those looking to pursue education and scholarship in the safety of our campus community, and to enhance support for current international students from countries in crisis,” University President Alan Shepard says in the announcement.
‘THEY ARE A VERY RESILIENT PEOPLE’
Back in Canada, Ivey and Western students are already planning how to best welcome the Ukrainian students to campus. They’re putting together baskets with needed items and organizing events to help the students settle in. Ivey faculty will work to get the students up-to-speed as quickly as possible to integrate them into their cohorts.
The goal, however, is that these students will be able to return to Ukraine upon the completion of the program to help rebuild their country.
“One of the many horrors of Russia’s war against Ukraine is that a generation of Ukrainian youth will be robbed of their future,” says Alexandra Chyczij, President of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. “This program is an opportunity for young Ukrainians to continue their education. Hopefully, when the war is over, these young leaders will be able to return home to rebuild Ukraine. We thank the Ivey Business School for this important contribution in support of the Ukrainian people.”
Seijts, the professor who was teaching his Ukrainian students hours before the war broke out and who started the conversation, says he has no doubt the students who come to Ivey will be able to make a valuable contribution back in their home country when able.
“They are a very resilient people and they are ready to rebuild,” he says.
To support the Ivey MBA Ukrainian Student Academic Shelter Program, visit www.ivey.ca/pledge select other and indicate “Student Academic Shelter” in the text box. Or, call 519-661-4161.
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