While the circumstances for coming to Western University’s business school are not what Oksana Kosendiak could have possibly imagined, both she and the faculty say a special academic program has been an amazing experience over the past 10 months.
Kosendiak is one of 10 Ukrainian university students that came from Ukraine to the Ivey Business School through the Ivey MBA Ukrainian Student Academic Shelter Program over the past year. The unique program was created in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
Now that the program is wrapping up with the conclusion of the winter term later this month, Kosendiak says the time spent in London, Ont. has been a “life-changing experience.”
“I feel like I’ve gained a lot of knowledge and experience I can use in the future in rebuilding Ukraine,” Kosendiak told Global News.
Kosendiak first arrived with five other Ukrainian students last May, with the four other students joining later in 2022. The post-graduate students were selected through pre-existing relationships Ivey has with two Ukrainian universities: Lviv Business School of Ukrainian Catholic University and the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy.
Adam Fremeth, an associate professor and the MBA program director at Ivey, says the academic shelter program was successful from their perspective in offering the students a place to continue their studies.
“That’s really job number one, ensuring that these students are going to be able to succeed academically and hopefully purse their professional and personal goals despite the war that continues to persist in Ukraine,” said Fremeth.
As part of the special program, the Ukrainian students had access to free tuition for a year plus housing, learning materials and a monthly stipend to pay for food. But while many of the worries a student has outside of class were assisted with, Fremeth says inside the classroom, the Ukrainians were treated the same as other students.
“The MBA students in the current cohort welcomed them with open arms and really brought them in like any other student would come into the program,” said Fremeth.
While leaving her family and coming to Canada for a year was not an easy decision, Kosendiak says she is glad she took the opportunity to study at Ivey.
“The studying at Ivey is really tough but really interesting,” said Kosendiak, who comes from a human resources background and is working on a master’s degree in human resources and organizational development from Lviv Business School.
“I feel like I grew not only as a professional, but as a person as well.”
Even in the 10 months he has known most of the visiting students, Fremeth says he has seen the Ukrainians embrace Canadian culture while still caring deeply about what is happening to their homeland.
“They are a great group of students and I’m really looking forward to seeing the success they have moving forward,” added Fremeth
While some of the students who came via the academic shelter program will be staying in Canada through the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel program, Kosendiak will be returning home at the end of the term.
“I feel like I owe it to Ukraine to come back and help to rebuild it,” said Kosendiak. “I will do volunteering and whatever I can to help Ukraine win the war.”
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