Virginia Tech offers research space, respite for Ukrainian researcher
Virginia Tech is offering respite and research space for a Ukrainian scholar who has been displaced from the country after the Russian invasion.
The position comes after more than a year of work to create this kind of opportunity by a group made up of people from across Virginia Tech with a strong desire to welcome international faculty who fled their countries because of war. When Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022, the group focused its efforts on creating a position specifically for a Ukrainian faculty member.
“With the really amazing support that the international stage has shown Ukraine, we thought we could move this initiative forward,” said Katrina Powell, who is chair of the search committee and director of the Center for Refugee, Migrant, and Displacement Studies at Virginia Tech. “We wanted to do something to support a colleague who may need a place to work.”
Virginia Tech joins numerous higher education institutions in the United States and internationally who are providing opportunities for Ukrainian academics to continue their work.
At Virginia Tech, the professor’s focus would be on research, rather than teaching, but would participate in public lectures, advise on program building, and be involved in other work with students and faculty.
According to the job description, there is not a required research area for the scholar. The individual’s work must be an innovative, crossdisciplinary approach to addressing complex problems.
The candidate could be affiliated with any number of areas at Virginia Tech from the Department of Political Science to the Center for Refugee, Migrant, and Displacement Studies. A review of applicants begins on Feb. 15, and applications will be accepted until the position filled.
Iuliia Hoban, assistant director for intercultural learning at Cranwell International Center and a native of Ukraine, said it’s important to recognize what a war and displacement can do to a scholar’s ambitions.
“They might have had an amazing career before the war or disaster, but when they are displaced and end up in situations where they can’t continue their work, it deprives them of agency,” said Hoban, who helped to create this new position. “This type of initiative allows them to come to a safer place and continue their work and thrive as a scholar.”
The scholar also will bring a unique perspective to the Hokie community.
“This position is a testament to the critical work we are doing to forge solutions to some of the world’s most complex problems,” said Laura Belmonte, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. “Hosting a Ukrainian scholar who has been displaced by the war is a powerful way to bring critical firsthand perspectives into multiple facets of our research, teaching, and outreach missions. We hope to sustain this position for the long-term and open it to displaced scholars from around the world.”
The scholar’s salary will be funded by the college, while living expenses are provided by a donation from the Bill and Ellen Cranwell Charitable Trust to the Cranwell International Center. The Cranwells gave $100,000 to the center in February 2022 after the invasion of Ukraine. A portion of their gift helped Virginia Tech’s Ukrainian students and sponsored a communitywide event to show support for Ukraine.
Now, a portion of those funds will support the new Ukrainian scholar.
This work hits home for Hoban, whose parents still live in Ukraine and had to leave their home in Kyiv for a time.
“You feel helpless,” she said of watching the war upend her family’s lives. “I think having the opportunity to make a tangible difference, to use this position to make something like this happen, is fulfilling.”
Similarly, Powell, Hoban and others are in the process of designating Virginia Tech as a chapter of Every Campus a Refuge, a nonprofit that assists refugee families at colleges and universities. Chapters can provide support to faculty and student refugees in a variety of ways, Powell said.
All of this work comes together to position Virginia Tech as an international leader, Hoban said.
“It places Virginia Tech in this larger conversation of a land-grant university striving to have this global impact,” she said.