Ukrainian Delegates Visit Oklahoma

Delegates from Ukraine, consisting of university and government officials, came to the University of Central Oklahoma to learn about systems and educational methods within higher education to help the 18 displaced universities in Ukraine.

This delegation began their trip in Washington D.C., where they met with congressional delegates and other government officials. After these meetings, they were in Oklahoma for a week starting with UCO last Monday, then throughout the rest of the week they visited with Oklahoma City Community College, University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City University, Francis Tuttle Technology Center, the Regional University System of Oklahoma and state legislators.

“We gave them a lot of ideas that they found very useful about things like how to protect academic records, how to plan for disasters and emergencies,” said James Machell, dean of UCO’s College of Education and Professional Studies. “Apparently they do not have those kinds of [disaster and emergency] systems, so they were very anxious to learn from us about things like that.”

Displaced universities are universities that were forced to relocate their operations. In this case, these universities are displaced because of the war that began in 2014 in Donbas, when Russia annexed Crimea.

Eighteen universities evacuated from occupied areas when the war began, including nine from Donetsk Oblast, eight from Luhansk Oblast and one from the Crimean Peninsula. In losing their original campus, they lost their equipment, documentation and had to start over either at a new location or in abandoned facilities. In some cases, there were branch campuses in other locations.

“We shared our expertise, our interests and the experiences that we have had in online and distance with degree completion programs,” said David Macey, assistant vice president for Global and Cultural Competencies. “[The delegate’s] mission is to gather ideas and figure out what the best practices are by touring United States universities.”

During the UCO visit, students and faculty shared information on transformative learning, documentation upkeep, how to engage faculty and staff in research, accessing and managing online and delivery learning.

UCO’s Center for eLearning and Connected Environments also attended the visit and gave a demonstration on our online models, technology and tools.

“For the [delegates], the main goal was learning; learning from us to take back practical ideas on how to try to help them find their way with their universities that have been displaced,” Machell said.

Machell said one of the things that was gained from this visit was a greater awareness of the difficulties and the political and military conflicts and challenges that exist in portions of Ukraine, and the political conflicts that exist between Ukraine and Russia.

“I see the benefit for us helping our students learn more about what is happening in that part of the world, because that is part of the world that we just don’t tend to hear about that much,” Machell said.

Kay Bickham, UCO partner and liaison for Open World Leadership Center reached out to Machell about hosting. This event was primarily hosted by the Office of Academic Affairs and the College of Education and Professional Studies, but other offices assisted as well.

The delegates from Ukraine included Serhji Ivanov, assistant to People’s Deputy of Ukraine O.M. Riabchyn (patronage service); Hanna Horina, head of the International Economics and Tourism Department; Kateryna Rodianova, assistant rector for the Luhansk National Agricultural University in Kharkiv; Anton Kolvahk, project manager for the Center for Innovation and Sustainability for International Development; Anna Hlushko, senior instructor in the Journalism Department at Donetsk National University; and Mariana Hulevych, Events and Partnerships coordinator.

At the UCO visit, several people from the university attended, including students and faculty from the History and Geography Department, Political Science Department and some students from various leadership groups.

Macey said through this visit there were also lines of communication established, so that when the delegates go back to Ukraine and begin thinking about specific initiatives they can receive consultation from a university official.

“UCO is dedicated global and cultural competency; we want our students and our faculty to teach and learn in a way that is aware of…what’s going on around the world, not just here in our local communities,” Macey said.

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