LAWRENCE — Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, units across the University of Kansas have come together to support Ukrainian students on the Lawrence campus and assist students and scholars displaced by the war.
As an institution with long-standing ties to Ukrainian academia — and one of only two universities in the United States that offer deep expertise in Ukrainian studies and multiple levels of Ukrainian language instruction — KU has responded to the violence in Ukraine both academically and concretely.
“The present destruction of Ukraine by Russian military has disrupted life for millions of people, including many university students and scholars,” said Ani Kokobobo, associate professor and chair of the Department of Slavic and Eurasian Languages & Literatures. “In the coming months, Ukrainian higher education will need support and help to survive, resettle and rebuild. A number of my immediate colleagues have relatives in areas that have been under attack in Ukraine, and it has been a significant comfort to them that so many of our colleagues at KU have engaged collectively to aid and support both Ukrainians at KU and those courageously remaining in Ukraine.”
The initiatives KU has engaged in thus far include:
Launch KU campaign and support for Ukrainian scholars
In April, the Department of Slavic and Eurasian Languages & Literatures, in conjunction with KU International Affairs and the KU Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies, set up a dedicated fund within the International Affairs office. This effort is connected to an unfolding partnership with the Kyiv National Economic University, which is working with the Ukrainian Ministry of Education and Science on establishing Ukrainian Global University, an emerging consortium of higher education institutions in Ukraine that will identify needs and hosting opportunities for displaced students and scholars.
Donations to the fund will enable KU to support Ukrainian students at KU and will allow KU to host displaced Ukrainian scholars and students.
The Office of Research and the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences have both matched those funds, thus enabling KU to host two visiting professors for the coming academic year.
Additionally, Graduate Studies and the Department of Slavic and Eurasian Languages & Literatures are offering two fellowships and two graduate teaching assistantships for a one-year accelerated master’s degree in Slavic languages and literatures with a special concentration in Russian, East European & Eurasian studies to students from Ukraine. The program will offer visa support to students, as well as health insurance, tuition and a living stipend.
Supporting Ukrainian students at KU
Since March, International Support Services has been in regular contact with KU’s Ukrainian students, advising on immigration matters, providing guidance on financial support and directing them to other campus resources. The units comprising International Affairs have also worked to secure financial resources to support these students, who may be unable to return to their homes or face significant financial difficulties due to the war.
Additional support has been leveraged for each currently enrolled Ukrainian undergraduate student to support their expenses for the remainder of the 2022 academic year. The financial aid was possible through support from the Institute of International Education, the KU International Affairs Advisory Board and KU International Affairs as well as the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and schools of Business and Engineering.
Community dialogue and support
KU has a strong Ukrainian tradition, having offered courses on Ukrainian languages and culture for many years, along with being home to many Ukrainian scholars and students. KU is one of the few U.S. institutions with a Slavic department with two full-time, tenured faculty members who are specialists in Ukrainian studies. KU faculty have shared their knowledge and expertise with members of the national, regional and local media, enabling more nuanced coverage of the conflict.
The university has also played a key role in providing space for the local and regional community to process the war. In early March, several KU units sponsored a teach-in and panel discussion about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its significance. On April 18, KU units from across the Lawrence campus hosted a night of personal stories, poetry, theater performance and music to show support for Ukrainians at home and abroad.
“As difficult as it is to see the devastating war in Ukraine unfold, it is important that we not sit idly by,” said Charles Bankart, senior internationalization officer for KU. “We can and are making a difference. This war deeply affects us all, not just our many Ukrainian Jayhawks here and around the world, and Russia’s invasion goes against everything we stand for as a community. Working together to support Ukraine in their time of greatest need is our responsibility, and I am proud of how our community has come together. We sincerely hope for a quick end to this senseless war and a restoration of peace. In the meantime, we will continue our efforts to support our Ukrainian students and scholars.”