UBC profs, students look to match displaced scholars from Ukraine with UBC researchers

A team at UBC is organizing an initiative connecting graduate students and postdoctoral scholars from Ukraine to UBC grant holders for employment.

Launched on July 20, an online survey works to match eligible scholars with research positions at UBC. The survey is open until August 15.

The initiative is relying on funding from the Tri-Councils, an umbrella term to describe the three federal research agencies (Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council), who announced in April that it would reimburse grant holders for one year of funds they spend on eligible salaries for the displaced scholars.

When the Tri-Council funding call came out, Dr. Katherine Bowers, a professor in Slavic studies and the director of the Centre for European Studies, found the instructions and process complicated. “It was not exactly clear from the funding instructions what was available and how to do it. So we decided to simplify it for people,” said Bowers.

In June, her team contacted everyone at UBC with an eligible grant. After gauging interest through surveys with the UBC community, they received over 300 responses, each response corresponding to an eligible spot. In an email sent to The Ubyssey after publishing, Bowers clarified that the team only received 300 responses, but that the team could only use 250 of them due to a lack of contact information from some respondents.

“There’s definitely a demand for this initiative to exist,” said Nastya Mozolevych, an undergraduate student assisting with the program.

“We’re currently working on emailing Ukrainian universities directly to share this opportunity,” she said. Her role within the initiative has mainly been creating surveys for grant holders and displaced students.

Prior to the launch of this initiative, Mozolevych wanted to involve herself in any opportunity that concerned supporting displaced scholars.

“Since the full-scale war began, I have been really disappointed by the lack of action on behalf of UBC,” she said. Other UBC students have called for the university to offer more resources like refugee clinics for families unable to return to Ukraine. Mozolevych said this initiative is being organized by professors as a voluntary project without the help of UBC.

In late February, UBC President Santa Ono released a statement on Ukraine and Russia, outlining existing university resources such as financial aid and mental health services.

In a statement to The Ubyssey, Kurt Heinrich, senior communications director at UBC Media Relations, said the university is “pleased to see individual faculty members engaging globally with international scholars impacted by conflict … This work is supported and encouraged by the university.”

“Early on in the crisis, a cross-campus group was formed to examine supports that are in place to help students and faculty that have been displaced in situations such as global conflicts and natural disasters,” he wrote, adding that UBC continues to explore opportunities to support for scholars at risk and “hope[s] to have more to say about this initiative in the coming months.”

Mozolevych believes there are many areas in which the university could extend its help, such as offering housing services.

“For our project, I think we would really appreciate help with housing and getting the word out about this initiative existing,” she said. Currently, the initiative plans on partnering with various local organizations to organize more support for housing and travel costs.

“As someone who is interested in human rights advocacy and as a Ukrainian student myself, this initiative means a lot to me,” said Mozolevych. Most of her family resides in Ukraine, and her work with this initiative has helped her feel “less powerless” as she witnesses her country go through war.

“When you think about the scholarly community, it’s a transnational international community of people who help each other in the pursuit of knowledge,” said Bowers. Alongside the Scholars At Risk Engagementship, she hopes that the work they have done so far will lead to helping scholars displaced in other conflicts around the world.

“It is our duty as scholars to help them.”

This article was updated at 10:17 a.m. on Monday, August 8, 2022 to include additional comments from Dr. Katherine Bowers. A previous version of this article also incorrectly said Nastya Mozolevych was a PhD student.