Wasyliw at Yalta

Universities can have an impact on democracy. Zenon Wasyliw, associate professor of history, knows this firsthand, having spent time in Serbia and in Ukraine before and after it had separated from the USSR. This October he returned to Ukraine to take part in the Alliance of Universities for Democracy’s 16th annual conference in Yalta. This meeting provided an interdisciplinary, transnational gathering of university faculty and administrators to advance education in promoting democratic institutions, economic development including technology transfer, decentralized decision making, human health, sustainable habitation of the earth, and common moral and social values.

Before an audience of representatives from more than 110 American and central, eastern, and southeastern European universities, Wasyliw presented a plenary session paper entitled “The Orange Revolution in Ukraine and the EU: The Pora Movement and Connections with Gene Sharp’s From Dictatorship to Democracy.” The Orange Revolution began in 2004 after allegations of widespread corruption, intimidation of voters, and electoral fraud during the country’s presidential election. According to Wasyliw, “The Orange Revolution, with students playing a leading role, allowed Ukrainians to challenge political authority no matter whom or what that political authority might be.” Wasyliw sought to encourage and incite university students in his audience to engage their educational institutions in the larger society.

This was Wasyliw’s first trip to Ukraine since the Orange Revolution. He was particularly struck by the increased transparency of the government and the open­ness of the media: “In opinion polls, the media is the most trusted institution in the country, followed by religion.”

Always the teacher, Wasyliw thought of the ways to engage his students upon his return to Ithaca College. He implemented e-mail exchanges between students in his Other Europe course and those in central and eastern European countries, and he plans a similar e-mail exchange with students in his Global Revolutions course. Perhaps students will develop a revolutionary model of their own. Says Wasyliw, “I want to encourage my students to have greater awareness of the world and their community,” rather than just a textbook understanding.

Wasyliw’s next project is an attempt to build connections between generations. He has proposed a paper on history, gerontology, and civic engagement for the next conference in Katowice, Poland. He hopes to motivate civic engagement and intergenerational communication by encouraging younger generations to reconstruct the past by talking to older generations, both locally and internationally.

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