The joint international seminars for the course Global Issues and Global Solutions for students of UCU and other colleges, including the University of Notre Dame, the University of Dubrovnik in Croatia, DePaul in Chicago, and Bilgi University of Istanbul in Turkey were made possible thanks to the pandemic and the transfer to online. We asked Dmytro Sherengovsky, assistant to the vice-rector for academic affairs and professor of the course, about how students and professors from UCU and from across the ocean work together.
Students in the third year of the program Ethics-Politics-Economics have international seminars every week.
“During the quarantine, I set a goal for myself so that students of my courses which are oriented to international cooperation would not lose opportunities for international experience because of the pandemic and the lack of international exchanges. The transfer to online allowed us to improve effective distance cooperation with colleagues from other universities,”– says Dmytro Sherengovsky.
During the course, students consider various international challenges. For example, the theme of migration is a large, global problem, which requires much time to study. The professor emphasizes that, within the course, he and the students outline the basic themes, and he proposes international discussions for generalization.
“This practice is interesting, because students from various environments, countries, and cultures have an opportunity to discuss important global themes and share the experience of the decisions of their own societies. Of course, it’s possible to read appropriate literature, look for the sources of a given theme, and follow the news, but this will not give you a precise understanding of reality. So, communicating with their peers, for example, from the USA, Croatia, and Turkey, the students can hear some social narratives firsthand,” the professor explains.
Mostly, professors divide the students into mixed teams of from 5 to 15 people and give them a common task to carry out. The students have the opportunity not only to study together but to be immersed in a certain cultural environment. According to Dmytro Sherengovsky, this format makes the courses significantly more interesting for students and more valuable for expanding their outlook.
And so students from UCU and the University of Notre Dame had practice in team discussions of the problem of fake news and disinformation in social networks connected with elections. The teams discussed who is responsible for such violations: journalists, media platforms which distribute information, or the politicians who resort to such methods? Previously, students suggested materials to read over, and so each in his or her group tried to solve the problem, comparing the situations in the USA and Ukraine.
One challenge for the students was working with a time difference of seven hours, explains Roman Steblivskyi, an exchange student from National University Kyiv Mohyla Academy. However, he says, working together with foreign students demonstrated the differences in views on political processes.
“The American solution to the problem of fake news is to educate voters and the personal responsibility of politicians for distributing disinformation, while our perspective focused on the government as the main actor in combating Russian propaganda. In general, educational formats like this give an opportunity to consider questions from various perspectives, to see similarities and differences in the positions of students from various countries, and also helps abstract from one’s exclusive point of view and receive outside feedback,” shares Roman Steblivskyi.
In addition, using the global learning experience approach, which DePaul University in Chicago uses, UCU students discussed how the world is changing and the approaches of American politicians in international relations after the presidential elections of Donald Trump and Joe Biden. This format allows the students to be divided into three focus groups: Ukrainians, Americans, and Croatians, each of which prepares “mini-research.” As the event was open, students from Great Britain, Australia, Mexico, and Brazil joined in to present their views and ideas.
UCU student Sofia Lyn is convinced that, with the transfer to online, the usefulness of communications and cooperation with foreign colleagues is great: “Our classes together are an opportunity to better comprehend how our peers across the ocean think. We have much in common, since the process of globalization influences the thinking of the whole world. However, we saw that we have various views on events that are happening recently in the world.”
Dmytro Sherengovsky is now working with foreign professors so that, in the next semester, there will be increased integration among students of various universities. In addition, he is working together with a colleague at Istanbul Bilgi University so that next year they can join Ukrainian and Turkish students in the COIL format, (collaborative online international learning).
“Experience like this will be interesting, because these are different cultures, with different perceptions and approaches to problems,” adds Dmytro Sherengovsky. “We are discussing formats like this with colleagues at UCU, and many professors do not want to return exclusively to classroom teaching as it was before the quarantine. We are also planning that some parts of courses at UCU will remain virtually internationalized.”
Professors and students abroad also shared their comments about joint studies:
Dr. Prof. Richard P. Farkas of DePaul University
As the spokesperson for the Global Engagement program at DePaul University (Chicago), I have had the opportunity to engage with the academic leadership at UCU in Lviv. While the relationship is growing to be multi-dimensional, I would like to call special attention to what we call the Global Learning Experience. This involves enlisting select faculty and students at UCU in an on-going dialogue with their peers here in Chicago. The collaboration of our professors and yours create an agenda for student-to-student dialogue on the major issues of politics and global affairs.
Our recent experience with Dr. Sherengovsky and his UCU students has spanned roughly four weeks this Spring and rendered remarkably thoughtful and creative insights into how students see and deal with the challenges facing our countries. The Ukrainian students are impressive in both their depth and breadth of analysis. The dialogue has been so successful that we are targeting an even more elaborate interface in our Autumn classes. The pandemic has limited the inter-personal contact, but we have plugged in the technology to proximate the value of sharing and challenging one another’s views. Chicago and Lviv have many natural affinities. From this recent academic set of experiences, the most evident is the genuine search for solutions shared by our students.
All of this is happening under the aegis of our cooperation. DePaul University values highly the relationship and anticipates that it will flourish and evolve.