Helping at-risk scholars

Posted July 26, 2022

A piece by Iryna Zenyuk, for UCI News. 

Reflections from Iryna Zenyuk, associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering

Helping at-risk scholars

Feb. 24, 2022, was a regular day in the lab for me, with a proposal review panel and meetings – nothing extraordinary. I direct a large group and have a leadership role with the UCI National Fuel Cell Research Center, so every hour of the day is accounted for. But this “regular” day forever changed my life – along with the lives of millions of people around the world – as Russia invaded Ukraine, shelling its major cities Kyiv and Kharkiv. […]

I am Ukrainian American. I immigrated here at the age of 15 and became a U.S. citizen shortly thereafter. I completed all my higher education in the U.S. Until my early 20s, I lived in a Ukrainian diaspora community in New York City, participating in activities such as annual festivals and church retreats. My mother and brother still live there, and I get to visit them several times a year. I haven’t lost touch with my Ukrainian roots: I speak the language fluently and try to participate in Ukrainian activities whenever possible. […]

I was introduced to Jane Newman, a UCI professor of comparative literature who founded the campus Scholars at Risk program back in 2017. Since then, the UCI schools of education, humanities, law, social sciences and pharmaceutical sciences have hosted a Turkish scholar and are currently hosting two Cameroonian scholars and three Afghan scholars, with a fourth scheduled to arrive in June. Along with the scholars are some 13 dependents (partners/spouses, children and, in one case, a younger sister) who were also offered sanctuary.

Scholars at Risk is an international program that, according to its website, “protects scholars suffering grave threats to their lives, liberty and well-being by arranging temporary research and teaching positions at institutions in our network as well as by providing advisory and referral services.” The program helps more than 800 scholars and scientists worldwide per year.

Since Professor Newman was still busy getting the Afghan scholars settled at UCI, we decided that I would lead the Ukrainian effort under her mentorship – launching a fundraising campaign, soliciting applications once the funds are raised and, lastly, helping the displaced scholars once they arrive.

Read the full piece.

In Categories: SAR in the Press