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Military and Veterans Program Hosts Ukraine Professor

Military and Veterans Program Hosts Ukraine Professor

Earlier this week — coincidentally during the nationwide celebration of International Education Week — the University of San Diego’s Military and Veterans Programs hosted a presentation/discussion event with Mariia Kolokolova, PhD, associate professor of sociology at Karazin Kharkiv National University in Kharkiv City, Ukraine.

Titled “A Test of Democracy: Changes and Challenges after Presidential and Parliamentary Elections in Ukraine 2019,” in which she spoke about a dominating win by new Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky this year over former Ukraine President, Petro Poroshenko, who was a one-term president the past five years.

Kolokolova provided context about her home country — there are 42 million people, it has been independent since Aug. 24, 1991 and it has experienced three revolutions — and she had PowerPoint slides recognizing the Euromadian and Revolution of Dignity (Nov. 21, 2013 to Feb. 22, 2014), examining the war in Donbas, a Russian invasion on April 6, 2014 that killed more than 13,000 people, including 3,300 civilians, internally displaced 1.3 million people and affected 400,000 war veterans, and more.

Kolokolova examined reforms and changes that have occurred since 2014 to present day. It’s everything from decentralization, a Ukraine-European Union Association agreement, military reform — the number of soldiers went to 204,000, up from 125,000 — police reform, de-communization, a public e-procurement system called ProZorro, an E-Declaration System, a National Anti-Corruption Bureau and National Anti-Corruption Court, healthcare reform and the independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

While much of Americans’ interest in Ukraine stems from current allegations involving U.S. President Donald Trump that have brought an impeachment inquiry to the forefront, Kolokolova’s academic focus is on teaching democracy, civil society and political culture in Ukraine. Kolokolova speaks about the challenges in Ukraine. The war in Donbas, corruption, establishing a rule of law, populism, disinformation and fake news, social disunity, the reintegration of war veterans and internally displaced persons (IDPs) and Euro-Atlantic integration.

Her informative talk at USD was a bonus for those in attendance. The chief reason for her Oct. 19-Nov. 19 visit to San Diego, and the U.S. in general, was because she had been selected for a Professional Fellows Program offered through the U.S. State Department. Originally scheduled to spend her month on the East Coast, as an educator and wanting to do research on reintegration of military veterans, she was connected with USD and Military and Veterans Programs Director Amanda Etter.

While staying with host families, Kolokolova also tapped into the resource of USD’s MVP program. She spent time with Etter, attended USD events and Kolokolova’s presence enabled Etter to build relationships with the San Diego Diplomacy Council and American Councils for International Education and potential future hostings of international associates. Etter said there’s even an outbound project — to be submitted by Kolokolova — that could enable her to visit Ukraine regarding the development of a Global Veteran Hub.

“Hosting Mariia in the Military and Veterans Program was mutually beneficial,” Etter said. “Being able to share our practices at USD and our partnerships with local non-profits to work with the re-integration of military members in the San Diego community re-affirms the work we do. We look forward to future opportunities to learn and grow the support for those who choose to serve, especially with a global impact.”

Kolokolova’s trip to the U.S. was her first. It produced some cultural firsts, too, but she handled it well, as she had a good command of the English language — she also speaks Russian and Ukrainian. Kolokolova was pleased to meet many Americans, describing them as “open people, friendly people,” and they smiled a lot. While she spoke well of her country’s people as “proud,” and “hard workers,” she did express a desire for more happiness among her countrymen and women. “I wish our (Ukraine) people would smile more.”

She was pleased to see a dedicated, high level of volunteerism in San Diego, but also noted the city’s homelessness issue and its impact both locally and in the U.S. She also provided a look at Kharkiv City where she lives and teaches in Eastern Ukraine. The city was founded in 1654, has a population of 1.5 million and 84 percent of its people speak Russian. The city's budget, which she compared to San Diego's, is $516 million compared to the $4.3 billion in America's Finest City.

But Kolokolova’s research dominated her time in San Diego. Her work in the U.S. did contribute to shaping one of her dream purposes.

“I would like to start a network among researchers to connect and unite us with nonprofit organizations who work closely with veterans. The network would unite and give advice to governments about veteran re-integration. We would build the network in Ukraine and internationally to offer advice to help advance a national strategy.”

— Ryan T. Blystone

USD Military and Veterans Program Director Amanda Etter, right, hosted Ukraine Sociology Professor Mariia Kolokolova, PhD, for a month-long stint as a professional fellow in the U.S.USD Military and Veterans Program Director Amanda Etter, right, hosted Ukraine Sociology Professor Mariia Kolokolova, PhD, for a month-long stint as a professional fellow in the U.S.

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