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Ivey welcomes Ukrainian students to MBA program

May 16, 2022

L-r: Anastasiia Nesterenko, Sofiia Shulga, Ulyana Kulchytska, Oksana Kosendiak, Yehor (Egor) Zavortniak, Maksym Savchyn, Alina Byshynska

L-r: Anastasiia Nesterenko, Sofiia Shulga, Ulyana Kulchytska, Oksana Kosendiak, Yehor (Egor) Zavortniak, Maksym Savchyn, and Alina Byshynska.

After weeks of anticipation, the first wave of displaced Ukrainian graduate students, including a mother with a young child, has arrived safely in London, Ontario to continue studies at Ivey.

Six Ukrainian students, five women and one man, were welcomed to Ivey on May 13 with a variety of orientation activities to prepare them to join the MBA program on exchange so they can receive credits for their home institutions. The School has waived MBA tuition fees and is raising money through the Academic Shelter Fund to help with additional expenses. The Academic Shelter Fund aims to raise $350,000 to support the Ukrainian exchange students and other students fleeing conflict in the future.

Welcome activities included meeting some of the faculty in Ivey’s MBA program – one who greeted them in Ukrainian – and experiencing their first case class, which was taught by David Wood, HBA ’97, MBA ’12, a Lecturer of Operations Management whose first teaching experience was in Kyiv, Ukraine through the Ivey LEADER Project. The students also had a session with Western International, lunch with Ivey Dean Sharon Hodgson, and a social gathering with the MBA cohort. There were plenty of welcome gifts, such as Ivey-branded sweaters, various household items, and food and beverages from a local Ukrainian grocery store, most of which were purchased by their new MBA classmates. The current MBA class fundraised to buy essential items for the Ukrainian students.

Warm welcome to Ukrainian arrivals

It was a warm show of support for Sofiia Shulga, a student from National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy.

“Everybody is so kind. Everybody is trying to help Ukraine. It’s wonderful. I have a Ukrainian flag and will be bringing it in because I want the professors to sign it,” she said. "I’m really glad to be in Canada to work with these awesome professors. I read about some of them in advance and I’m excited to be in this program.”

Maksym Savchyn, a student from National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, was also surprised by the welcome.

“I was in Poland for the past couple of months and the Polish people were really friendly, but here it’s just a new level,” he said. “The opportunity is a surprise overall and you’re still surprising us every day.”  

Savchyn, who has a bachelor’s degree in marketing and was in the process of completing a master’s degree in business development, said he had always planned to do an MBA so is glad to be introduced to the program while getting exchange credits.

“I’m still in shock a little bit. This is a huge opportunity and I’m so appreciative of it,” he said.

Ulyana Kulchytska has also always wanted to do an MBA. After working 20 years in human resources at companies such as Nestlé, METRO, and Ukrainian Catholic University, Kulchytska was doing a master’s degree in Human Resource Management at Lviv Business School when she learned of Ivey’s offer to get graduate-level business classes in the MBA program to continue her education. Even though it was difficult to leave her husband and children, who remain in Ukraine and Switzerland respectively, Kulchytska’s goal is to return to Ukraine armed with the skills and expertise to help the country build a strong future.

“My goal is to learn a lot and help Ukraine rebuild after the war,” she said.

Seeking safety in Canada

Shulga, who was doing a master’s degree in marketing when the war in Ukraine began, is excited to continue her education, but is most grateful for the opportunity to be safe.

Her family lives with her boyfriend and his family in Kyiv, Ukraine so each night she calls them to check on their safety. Her boyfriend’s father is a soldier so she is in a constant state of worry.

“Hopefully, I’ll always hear that everything is OK. It’s hard for me to understand that they’re in danger because of this aggression,” she said. “They’re so happy that I’m safe. My boyfriend said, ‘You’re so emotional. You need to be far away and be safe.’ I miss him and wish that he could visit me, but there is no opportunity for men to leave the country. I’m hoping he’ll get an opportunity to come here to study at university.”

It’s a similar predicament for Savchyn. While his mother is in Poland, his father and brother cannot leave Ukraine. Savchyn was able to do so because he has an eye condition that makes him unfit for the army. His brother has applied to do his undergraduate degree at Western University so he hopes they’ll one day be together again.

“My whole family is abroad and I miss them, especially my brother. He’s my best friend,” he said.

Continuing education

For now the students are making the best of it and are eager to meet new friends in the MBA program. Each Ukrainian student will be paired with a buddy from the current MBA class for ongoing support. Although the current class is two months into the program, Associate Professor Adam Fremeth, HBA ’00, Faculty Director of Ivey’s Accelerated MBA and MBA programs, said it will be easy for them to catch up. The Ukrainian students will take Pre-Ivey classes first and then transition into the full program in July.

“We want to help you finish your education and go back and rebuild Ukraine, but I hope this is the start of a relationship,” said Fremeth. “I think this is an important academic connection that we’re building between Ivey/Western and your schools and it’s something we can continue working on.”

Ivey is eager to welcome more students to the program in coming months. Through the Academic Shelter Program, Ivey is working with representatives at Lviv Business School and National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy to identify students in need in masters-level programs in business, finance, marketing, technology, or economics who are a good fit for the MBA program. Eleven Ukrainian students will be offered the chance to come to Ivey on exchange. In addition to having the MBA tuition fee waived, the students will receive free learning materials, a stipend/scholarship to offset living costs, and free housing. Their accommodations are being provided by Property Corp. and Ivest Properties Ltd. thanks to the generous support of an Ivey alumnus.

Meet Ivey’s new Ukrainian students

Alina Byshynska, and her six-year-old son, Yehor (Egor) Zavortniak – Byshynska is chief operating officer of MustPay, a company that provides tech solutions for banks and financial services. She was doing a master’s degree in Technology Management at Lviv Business School before coming to Ivey. She has a bachelor's degree in computer science and a master's degree in education from National Mining University.

Oksana Kosendiak – Kosendiak is a human resources professional who was working on a master’s degree in human resources and organizational development from Lviv Business School. She was brand development manager at PrJSC Enzym Company and has also worked in talent acquisition at Ukrainian Leadership Academy.

Ulyana Kulchytska – Kulchytska is Human Resources Director at Ukrainian Catholic University and was pursuing a master’s degree in Human Resource Management at Lviv Business School.

Anastasiia Nesterenko – Nesterenko was in the first year of a master’s program in finance at National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. She has worked at Deloitte as Audit Assistant for agriproduct companies.

Maksym Savchyn – Savchyn was doing a master’s degree in business development at National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. He has previous work experience in business development and marketing.

Sofiia Shulga – Shulga was enrolled in a master’s program in marketing at National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. She has previously worked at Nestlé.

Donate to the Academic Shelter Fund.