Although the circumstances of coming to Western University’s business school are not what Oksana Kosendiak could have possibly imagined, both she and the faculty say that a special academic program has been an amazing experience over the past 10 months.

Kosendiak is one of 10 Ukrainian university students who came from Ukraine to Ivey Business School by Ivey MBA Ukrainian Student Academic Protection Program during the last year. The unique program was created in response to Russian invasion in Ukraine in February 2022.

Now that the program ends with the conclusion of the winter semester later this month, Kosendiak says the time spent in London, Ont. has been a “life-changing experience”.

“I feel that I have gained a lot of knowledge and experience that I can use in the future to rebuild Ukraine,” Kosendiak told Global News.

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Kosendiak first arrived with five other Ukrainian students last May, and the other four students joined later in 2022. The graduate students were selected through pre-existing relationships Ivey has with two Ukrainian universities: the Lviv Business School at the Ukrainian Catholic University and the National University of Kyiv -Mohyla Academy.

Adam Fremeth, associate professor and MBA program director at Ivey, says the academic shelter program was successful from their perspective in offering students a place to continue their studies.

“That’s really job number one, to make sure that these students will be able to succeed academically and hopefully achieve their professional and personal goals despite the war that continues in Ukraine,” Fremeth said.

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As part of the special program, the Ukrainian students had access to free tuition for a year plus housing, study materials and a monthly stipend to pay for food. But while many of the concerns a student has outside of class were addressed, Fremeth says inside the classroom, the Ukrainians were treated the same as other students.

“The MBA students in the current cohort welcomed them with open arms and really took them in like any other student would come into the program,” Fremeth said.

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Although it was not an easy decision to leave her family and come to Canada for a year, Kosendiak says she is glad she took the opportunity to study at Ivey.

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“Studying at Ivey is really tough but really interesting,” says Kosendiak, who comes from a human resources background and is working on a master’s degree in human resources and organizational development from Lviv Business School.

“I feel like I grew not only as a professional, but also as a person.”

Even in the 10 months he’s known most of the visiting students, Fremeth says he’s seen the Ukrainians embrace Canadian culture while still caring deeply about what’s happening to their homeland.

“They are a great group of students and I am really looking forward to seeing the success they have had going forward,” Fremeth added

While some of the students who came through the academic protection program will stay in Canada through the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel program, Kosendiak will return home at the end of the semester.

“I feel like I owe it to Ukraine to come back and help rebuild it,” Kosendiak said. “I will do voluntary work and everything I can to help Ukraine win the war.”

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