UCU Works to Restore Integrity to Today’s Ukraine

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The new head of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy (diocese) of Chicago, Bishop Benedict Aleksiychuk (seen in photo), was a student and sometime speaker at the Lviv Business School of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, Ukraine.










Speaking at a recent fundraiser in San Francisco, Volodymyr Shram, Director of Engineering at the IT firm SoftServe, said: “We will hire as many graduates with IT degrees as the Ukrainian Catholic University can give us. This is not only because of their skills. It is because of their integrity. We can trust them.”

The Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU), located in Lviv, Ukraine, is known throughout corruption-riddled post-Soviet Ukraine as a corruption-free environment. This provides great inspiration and stimulus for newer programs like the bachelor’s in computer science and master’s programs at the UCU School of Law and UCU School of Public Administration, not to mention longer-established programs like history and theology, which offer undergraduate and now even doctoral degrees.

The university has a complicated history, but its latest incarnation dates back to the revival of the Lviv Theological Academy in 1994, with highlights including the blessing of the site of the new campus by St. Pope John Paul II in 2001. It was revived by students of the late Cardinal Josyf Slipyj, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church from 1944 to 1984, who himself suffered in Soviet prison camps for 18 years before being exiled from the USSR in 1963.

Cardinal Slipyj is a good model for moral behavior. He was, in the words of Dr. Oleh Turiy, head of the university’s Church History Department, “a witness of someone who could not be broken, who defended his convictions under conditions in which it seemed all was lost, when nothing, not even hope, remained.” Ukrainians today “need a model,” says Turiy.

And the Ukrainian Catholic University strives to provide such models in various fields.

“We lack educated, virtuous specialists who will be able to generate qualitatively new practices in courts, the bar, prosecutors’ offices, etc.,” says Andriy Hrynchuk, an attorney and managing partner at Hrynchuk and Partners law firm in Lviv. “Through the UCU School of Law and other law schools with zero tolerance of corruption and unprofessionalism, people for whom modernization of the country is not just a slogan can come to jurisprudence.”

Another group that shares the university’s aspirations are veterans of the current conflict in eastern Ukraine, who can receive scholarships to study at the UCU School of Public Administration. “Brothers-in-arms often get frustrated as they see no actual changes,” says Taras Kovalyk, a veteran and current student at the university’s MPA program.

“They were able to restrain the enemy on the front, but cannot do anything here. Over nine months of my studies, I saw that constant changes are taking place in the country, and I realized how I and everyone else can join them. There is a platform in the management school for those who have the actual power and the will to implement changes, so that they can obtain the necessary knowledge, skills and contacts,” notes Kovalyk. “There is actually a huge lack of staff. In all the regions where we go, we are invited to work, and people are complaining that there is a very small number of people who are willing to change the country with their everyday work.”

Recognizing the need for ethics in business as well, three business groups approached the university in 2008 and suggested that it create a business school to teach MBA courses and also shorter courses for middle managers. The UCU Lviv Business School “represents… a particularly successful synthesis of business and ethics,” says Vitaliy Antonov, head of Galnaftogaz’s chain of filling stations, one of the founders of the business school.

The late Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, frequently spoke at the business school, and some of his talks were assembled in a book called “Where Your Treasure Is…” And Bishop Benedict Aleksiychuk, new head of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy (diocese) of Chicago, himself earned an MBA from the school and also frequently spoke on spiritual themes to students of the school.

“Many people in Ukraine are trying to do something about corruption,” says Bishop Borys Gudziak, the university’s president. “But it’s a systemic problem and it’s not easy to change the system.”

In little ways and bigger, the Ukrainian Catholic University educates professionals who are ready to serve society and Church with morals intact.

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