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Our Ukrainian Connections

DEPARTMENT(S): 
March 25, 2022

In February, much of the world watched in horror as Russian forces descended upon and attacked Ukraine. Millions have fled the constant bombardment that had occurred across the country. Our thoughts, prayers, and hopes for peace are joined with billions around the world. But in the Business School, we also acknowledge the actions that connect us to Ukraine through significant and important tangible relationships.

Yuliia Kleban

In fall 2021, we welcomed Yuliia Kleban, Assistant Professor at Ukrainian Catholic University in L’viv, a visiting Fulbright Scholar in the Business School. Professor Kleban is the Academic Director of the IT program at her institution which is partially situated in their Business School. As part of her Fulbright, Professor Kleban was in the US to learn how American Business Schools are run and bring back ideas to her institution. However, as she returned to L’viv in January, her focus turned to evacuation readiness. As Professor Kleban told the Boston Globe in a February 26th interview, she was packing essential items – money, documents, medicine, nuts, and dried fruit if she and her husband needed to evacuate.

Professor Renata Konrad

Yet while Professor Kleban was preparing for possible evacuation, she continued to look out for her students by connecting with Renata Konrad, Associate Professor in Operations and Industrial Engineering at the WPI Business School. Professor Konrad was a Fulbright Scholar at Ukrainian Catholic University during the same period that Professor Kleban was at WPI. In fact, the two professors swapped home during their respective stays. Professor Konrad experienced firsthand the escalating tensions of the impending conflict and had to return to the US earlier than planned for her safety and that of her family. Professor Konrad’s research uses applied mathematics to examine anti-human trafficking operations, an issue exacerbated given the war. It is their lived experience that moves Professor Konrad to work with Professor Kleban to support students in L’viv.

Professor Konrad and Her Students inL'viv

Professor Konrad shared that Ukrainian Catholic University has continued to hold classes remotely as the campus has become an internal refugee center. The university’s faculty in Applied Sciences is committed to having their students graduate. However, students must complete a capstone project much like WPI’s Major Qualifying Project (MQP) and the university is short on supervisors as many have taken up arms for war. In response, Professor Konrad reached out to Business School professors for help, and they were quick to offer their service. Professors Sara Saberi, Farnoush Reshadi, Joe Sarkis, Fabienne Miller, Wally Towner, Kenny Ching, and Renata Konrad are advising ten students in areas that include marketing analytics, econometrics, financial analytics and fintech, and operations and analytics.

Donated Supplies to Sunflower of Peace_1

Additionally, Professor Konrad has been galvanizing a local response. She is working with Katya Malakhova, founder of Sunflower of Peace, a nonprofit organization aimed at helping Ukrainians affected by violence. Since the conflict began, this nonprofit with an annual operating budget of   $47,000.00 has now received over $1,000,000.00 in donations. Malakhova has been receiving medical supplies in her Newton, MA home, which are being shipped to Ukraine via Poland. Professor Konrad helped to secure storage space for donations. She was also asked to speak at a rally held by the City of Newton. And she is rallying student response on campus.

The Business School will continue to help support the people of Ukraine, particularly through connections with Professors Konrad and Kleban. However, if you would like to lend your support, Professor Konrad provided several ways to help:

  1. Provide financial and employment support to academics who have fled their home countries for political reasons. Reach out to https://www.scholarsatrisk.org/ to support Ukrainian scholars are at risk for their research.
  2. Appeal to Congress for aid (humanitarian, military, or economic). Find your representative at https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/.
  3. Financial assistance.  Ukraine is not a rich country. The average household makes less than $7000 a year.

Ukrainian Catholic University, which is now housing refugees.