Just over a month since Western’s Business school announced plans to welcome students fleeing Ukraine for an MBA exchange program, the first six arrived in London, Ont., on Friday.
Western’s Ivey Business School welcomed six displaced Ukrainian students to help them continue their graduate studies through the Ivey MBA Ukraine Students Academic Shelter Program. The program allows the students to earn credits for their home institutions.
The newly formed program offers 11 displaced students free tuition for a year plus housing, learning materials and a monthly stipend to pay for food.
“We’ve heard heartbreaking stories about their experiences and how these students have come to Canada with very little. I am so proud of how the school – faculty, staff, students and alumni — has come together to make this important humanitarian project a reality. I also believe our current MBA students will equally learn from the resilience of the incoming Ukrainian students,” said Sharon Hodgson, dean of Ivey Business School.
Adam Fremeth, the faculty director of Ivey’s MBA program, told Global News Ivey has partnered with two universities in Ukraine through pre-existing relationships with the schools and faculty.
The students were selected from the Lviv Business School of Ukrainian Catholic University and the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy.
“Many of the students have left Ukraine and had been in Germany and Poland, among other countries, so it was a process in getting them connected with our exchange office here, starting to understand the immigration processes that the federal government has now put in place for Ukrainian refugees, and then trying to book flights for them and getting them to fly over here,” he said.
The program, which initially was only set to welcome 10 students, will help 11 students total, some of which will bring their children.
“A number of the students are going to be coming with children as well through this period and we’re providing whatever support we can to help that transition work well for them,” Fremeth said.
Six-year-old Yehor Zavortniak arrived with his mom Alina Byshynska in the first group of students.
Fremeth said the six-year-old will be attending school until the end of the year and then Western Univerity summer camps before returning to school the following year while his mother works on a Master’s Degree in Technology Management at Lviv Business School.
He said that the students were happy to get some more normalcy into their lives once they arrived.
“I’m still in shock a little bit. This is a huge opportunity, and I’m so appreciative of it,” said Maksym Savchyn, a student from the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy.
Sofiia Shulga, a student from the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, was also happy for the opportunity to continue her education and 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.
“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.
The remaining five students are expected to arrive over the next few weeks and throughout the summer.
The total investment by Ivey is estimated to be $1 million.
The business school hopes to raise $350,000 for the recently created Academic Shelter Fund, which will support the Ukrainian exchange students and other students fleeing conflict in the future.
As of May 12, the United Nations Refugee Agency estimates more than 6 million people have fled Ukraine for neighbouring countries, and at least 7 million people have been displaced in Ukraine since the Russian invasion began in February.