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About my visit to the Alfred Nobel University – Petro Palyukh, historian, linguist, one of the leaders of social and cultural life of the Ukrainian diaspora in the USA

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I would like to thank the professors and administrators of the Alfred Nobel University for their time and hospitality on my first visit to this vibrant and unconventional center of learning. As I prepared to visit the University, I fully expected the same dreary patronizing circumstances I have experienced at other Ukrainian educational institutions which I visited over the last twenty years during frequent visits to Ukraine. I was pleasantly surprised by the people I met, with the air of self confidence and inquisitiveness they have. At the very approach to the university I could not help but notice that this was a well run institution, exhibiting the care and esthetic level worthy of a private, successful institution, unencumbered  by the politics and financial vicissitudes of incumbent regimes.

My meeting with the History Professors was particularly invigorating since it was not bound by the usual conventions of collegial deference, avoiding the difficult and perhaps controversial issues. These professionals exhibited an honest curiosity about issues that have haunted us Ukrainians both in Ukraine and the Diaspora. They were not shy with their queries and this made for an excellent exchange of ideas and a level of honesty not often found in the company of Ukrainian academics in the United States. It was both compelling and satisfying to probe and exchange opinions on topics that Ukrainians wrestled with over time and across institutions around the world.

The seminar led by Prof. Spirka was a welcome occasion.  Ukraine and its vaunted soil have been decimated throughout the Soviet occupation and their unrelenting quest to increase agricultural yields devastated Ukraine’s “Chornozem”. The callus overuse of chemical fertilizers, insecticides and herbicides, has wreaked havoc on Ukraine’s ecology. By estimates of many knowledgeable experts about 85% of Ukraine farmland was severely contaminated during the Soviet regime. It is so very uplifting to see that our local experts are mindful of the problems facing Ukrainian agriculture and are determined to address them. This gives credence to the truism that the best wardens of the land and the environment are the natives who live on it and benefit from it. They and only they can and will go to whatever extreme possible to keep the land healthy, productive and clean. No one can match this level of care and competency from a central planning “buro” thousands of kilometers away and myriad down with political imperatives. Here The Alfred Nobel University seems to be in the forefront of this worldwide movement, God bless your courage and Godspeed your work.

It was at this seminar that I had the honor of meeting Prof. Morhun. The conversation was all to brief but left a powerful impression on me. Since that meeting I have received a shipment of books penned by him and his late father, hart wrenching, revealing and instructive. I thank all of you for the opportunity you provided me to make this acquaintance.

The distance learning program which Prof. Ishchenko has been working on and so caringly promoted since we first met in the United States last year is a good example of the positive impression the University and its staff make. The project is a very difficult one, extremely complicated and ventures into unchartered waters.  It will require a good coordinated effort of many experts across many fields, a high level of competency in technology, and a very high level of expertise in subject matter across many departments and faculty. Because no one around the world has yet figured out what makes such a program successful, their popularity seems to be arbitrary and dependent on luck. Never the less, the use of the internet as a vehicle for learning is here to stay and already shows promise and has many winners, however the field is littered with failures as well and that means that anyone willing to venture into this field is a gutsy entrepreneur, self-confident and bold, and that is the mark of a great University. When a university produces people who are willing and able to take on such challenges, then that University will lay claim to the mantel of greatness.  I say this not as a gratuitous complement but as an observation gleaned over the years of tracking and engaging educational efforts on various levels.

A complement to the distance learning program was my brief but impressive meeting with Prof. Kuznetsova, Head of the Department of Finance and Banking. Prof. Kuznetsova strikes me as an unencumbered scholar “in search of wisdom and truth.” She is well read in economics and has ventured into a field given up for dead in Europe and struggling to survive in the United States, The Austrian School of Free Market Economics. It has been successful everywhere and every time it has been implemented, most recently: The United States up until the mid twentieth century, Chile and others. For Prof. Kuznetsova to have ventured into this area of study shows a lot of intellectual liberty and self confidence. Free Market Economics are out of favor around the world because they cut the politician and his bureaucracy out of the economic process and by definition out of the “honey pot.” Free Market Economics are not popular in counties where corruption has settled in.  This is true in counties where corruption is more elegant and specious as in the United States and Western Europe or more crude and obvious as in most third world countries and former Captive Nations of the USSR.

In conclusion, all this is made possible by the leaders of the University, the Rector, pro-Rector and the board of overseers who set the tone and provide a nurturing environment to the institutions. Many of the Universities in Ukraine and around the world have smart and even brilliant faculty, staff and students but few distinguish themselves with a highly successful product: Breakthrough research, ability to tackle and resolve problems in their field of study, and produce leaders the country and its industries need. The ability to convert knowledge into a useful and influential commodity for the country is an elusive talent. It is most often found in institutions with integrity, intellectual honesty, and freedom. Freedom to think, express and most of all freedom to take chances is the quest for success. To that end I commend the people who provide this leadership at the Alfred Nobel University and especially the pro-Rector with whom I had the pleasure to spend a productive and pleasant day, Serhij Borysovych Kholod.

What people have written about us