Dayton Daily News: Wright State students work to exchange with Ukraine through lectures


Wright State University students can’t study abroad in Ukraine right now, so the university is collaborating with a Ukrainian university to educate the students about each culture.

Twelve Wright State students will be able to attend a five-week video series, “War and Society in Ukraine: Collaborative Online International Learning,” with Ukrainian students who are on the frontlines of the Russian-Ukrainian war. The students come from the V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University and have been displaced in the war.

“That faculty and students from a university that has been destroyed by Russian missiles and who remain under siege are willing and able to participate in the program is, to me, truly remarkable,” said Sean Pollock, associate professor of history at Wright State and the series’ lead organizer.

The first video on Thursday was introductory, but the following lectures will be on the beginnings of the war and the reasons behind Russian president Vladmir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine, as well as the plight of many Ukrainian refuges. The series runs through mid-April.

“The idea is, to the extent that we can, avoid political questions and focus on this effort to build a bridge between civil societies in America and Ukraine,” Pollock said.

Michelle Streeter-Ferrari, director of the University Center for International Education, said the video chats may be a way for students to learn more about other cultures.

Students tend to study abroad in Europe, she noted, but this type of program could expose students to Asian, Latin American and African cultures. It could also give students who don’t have the money or ability to travel abroad a chance to experience another culture.

This project grew from Pollock’s service on the board of directors of the Cincinnati-Kharkiv Sister City Partnership. Pollock, who is a Cincinnati resident, said the partnership has a contact with the Ukrainian national university’s faculty, Viktoria Mariniuk.

“This is a pilot project, and we wanted to keep it small,” Pollock said. “It developed late in the semester. It’s kind of a miracle that it’s launching at all.”

Pollock said the Ukrainian students may get a sense of normalcy out of the experience.

“This represents a safe space to learn and to continue to just be students,” he said. “There’s an escapist quality. Wherever they are, this’ll be an hour to attend to their intellectual growth.”

Will Evans, a third-year Wright State history major participating in the program, said he is excited to learn more about the lives of the people who have been most impacted by Ukraine’s war.

“In addition to whatever military efforts we can offer Ukraine, it’s so important that American academics lead the way in forming meaningful relationships with our Ukrainian friends,” Evans said. “I think there’s a great opportunity for cross-cultural learning and exchange between our two countries if we build these relationships.”

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