My Journey: How a Fulbright Graduate Implemented an Educational Project for Displaced Ukrainian Students During Wartime
September 21, 2023
Nazarii Stetsyk IIE Centennial Fellow 2022-2023
IIE selected Professor Nazarii Stetsyk as a 2022–2023 Centennial Fellow to lead educational and research programming in support of displaced Ukrainian students seeking to reconstruct the country post-war. His vision: for Ukrainian students to return to and rebuild their country “in accordance with the values of democracy, human rights, and rule of law.” Stetsyk is among four of fellows leading projects designed to support refugee and displaced groups, including those from Afghanistan, Nepal, and Nigeria.
The far-reaching advantages conferred by participation in Fulbright programs are widely acknowledged. These programs, extending beyond mere academic pursuits, engender an expansive realm of opportunities.
After completing my Fulbright program at Notre Dame Law School and returning to Ukraine by the end of 2021, I felt inspired to pursue new projects. I established professional contacts and gained invaluable experience. I planned to introduce new courses related to comparative human rights issues and the rule of law at my alma mater – the Faculty of Law at Lviv University. Additionally, I intended to establish institutional cooperation in the academic realm with representatives of American academia, aimed at enhancing the functioning of the Ukrainian judiciary.
However, like the plans of numerous Ukrainians, my aspirations were abruptly interrupted by the Russian invasion in February 2022. After the invasion, safety and survival was prioritized over educational and scholarly activities. The resilience, unity, and mutual support of Ukrainian people played a pivotal role in enduring these trying times.
The Educational Front of Ukrainian Academia in Wartime and its International Support
Following a relatively successful defense against Russian aggression, it became evident that life must go on and everyone would persist in spite of living under martial law. For me and many other educators and scholars, the educational front was top of mind – Ukrainian students needed to continue acquiring high-quality, modern knowledge rooted in the civilizational values of freedom, democracy, and respect for human dignity.
The defense of these values, both in the military and educational context, was made possible with substantial assistance to Ukraine from foreign and international partners. My Human Rights and the Rule of Law course, part of the Invisible University for Ukraine Program created by the Central European University and supported by the Institute of International Education, stands as one successful example. Furthermore, drawing from my Fulbright experience and established academic connections, I organized unique online meetings for Ukrainian students with renowned professors during the spring semester of 2023. These sessions allowed us to examine and discuss topical issues of global and local significance.
Summer School In-Person Project Segment: Budapest and Lviv
This summer, Ukrainian students were presented with a special opportunity to convene in person with each other, invited lecturers, and program organizers during summer schools held in Lviv (Ukraine) and Budapest (Hungary). The programs of these schools were packed with engaging lectures, discussions, sightseeing tours, and garnered positive feedback from students.
Volodymyr Tsololo, a graduate student of the Kharkiv Law Academy and a participant of the summer school in Budapest, points out, “I greatly benefited from the discussions and interactions with students and faculty members of the Central European University, as well as with exciting invited speakers. We discussed the role of Ukraine in contemporary world, its cultural and canon heritage, importance of documenting the war experiences, and processes of reshaping the national identity. In addition, the exhibition of unissued diplomas to Ukrainian students, who lost their lives due to the war, had a huge impact on me and allowed to reflect on the fragile situation with access to education in Ukraine these days: a privilege in times of war, and a thing that is taken for granted during peacetime”.
For Myroslava Delita, an undergraduate law student at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, “it was most interesting and useful to discuss interdisciplinary issues, research methods and educational trajectories”. In group meetings, she received helpful feedback on her research project. “This was really useful, because it was a good chance to get constructive comments, which will help me to write studies even more structured, thoroughly and professionally.” Myroslava notes that “it was also interesting to walk around Budapest, discovering more and more historical and modern places – in the company of summer school participants, organizers and lecturers, it was always informative and engaging”.
Nazarii Stetsyk is an Associate Professor of Law at Lviv National University (Ukraine), specializing in legal theory, rule of law, and human rights. As a 2020–2021 Fulbright Visiting Scholar to the University of Notre Dame School of Law, he implemented the Fulbright Research and Development Program, where he explored U.S. Supreme Court case law on issues of ensuring its consistency and development. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Professor Stetsyk co-organized the project for displaced Ukrainian students, “Invisible University for Ukraine,” under the leadership of the Central European University in Budapest-Vienna.
Named in honor of IIE’s Centennial and association with the Fulbright Program, the IIE Centennial Fellowship seeks to help enhance Fulbright as a life-long experience and recognize alumni whose work embodies the program’s underlining values of mutual understanding, leadership, global problem solving, and global impact.