Since fleeing Ukraine, renowned scholar and psychologist Pavlo Lushyn has found refuge at the University, where from his new academic – and safe – home, he keeps close tabs on his country, closely following the news and volunteering on the front lines of a growing mental health crisis.
“From the beginning,” Lushyn says of the Russian military invasion, “I have observed not only the state of my own internal psychological condition, but also have witnessed what has been going on inside Ukraine and the traumatic experiences being suffered.”
Lushyn served as a visiting scholar at Montclair 20 years ago, collaborating with the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children. The connection paved a path to refuge when colleagues learned that Lushyn was among the 8 million people displaced from the devastated Eastern European country. Collective efforts began within Montclair to untangle red tape and find funding for a faculty position and housing for Lushyn and his wife, Tanya. Lushyn teaches philosophy for children, central to the Department of Educational Foundation’s emphasis on morality, ethics and critical thinking to help solve real-world problems.
The humanitarian response to a global crisis is consistent with the University’s identity and mission as a public-serving institution. Through the years, Montclair has helped other displaced scholars, most recently last spring when it welcomed Political Science and Law Professor Roya Saqib, a women’s rights advocate and scholar who escaped the Taliban in Afghanistan in the fall of 2021.
As an employee of the collapsed government – a technical assistant to the country’s president – and an activist for women’s rights, Saqib risked retaliation if she remained.
“I was also concerned that I had no future, that everything I’ve done and earned in my life with lots of difficulties and challenges would all just go back to zero and I would be sitting at home, doing nothing and looking at what’s happening in my country without being able to stop or change it,” she recalls.
In her new position funded by the Montclair State University Foundation, Saqib has been appointed an instructional specialist in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, and is also pursuing research as an Afghan Crisis Fellow with New York University. “I’m one of the lucky ones to have these opportunities, but many are back in Afghanistan, they’re still suffering,” Saqib says. “That’s why I want to work for those who are left behind.”
“As an engaged university, we act to build the world that we want to live in, and we know that our actions speak louder than any words can,” says University President Jonathan Koppell. “At times, those actions may feel small in comparison to the scale of the tragedies unfolding around the globe, yet we are not deterred because in making this seemingly modest contribution, we underscore the role we can all play in creating a more just world.”
– Marilyn Joyce Lehren