Paul Grod, Discussant | The Ukrainian diaspora’s role in Ukrainian studies

Paul Grod

Ukrainian Canadian Congress



PAUL GROD is the president and CEO of Rodan Energy, a leading North American energy management company. Prior to founding Rodan Energy, Paul was a corporate and investment banker with CIBC World Markets and a lawyer with Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP, practicing corporate finance and M&A law. Grod is the national president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and vice-president of the Ukrainian World Congress, and chairs its Council in Support of Ukraine. Paul holds a BA in political science, a law degree, and an MBA, and is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada.

I am sorry that I do not have any giveaways, but next time I am on a panel with Andrii [Hladyshevsky], I will make sure to bring giveaways. [Laughter.] I have lots of flashlights I can give out. I think those would trump the brochures, but we will save that for another time.

It is a real privilege to be here as a net recipient of the good work that all of you do. I am very pleased that I have been a student of some of you and have read many of your works. You have made an impact on the future of the Ukrainian-Canadian community thanks to your good work, so I just wanted to start off with that, because what you do is very important. As a discussant, let me just touch on some of the key themes sorry that I do not have any giveaways, but next time I am on a panel with Andrii [Hladyshevsky], I will make sure to bring giveaways. [Laughter.] I have lots of flashlights I can give out. I think those would trump the brochures, but we will save that for another time.

Andrii Hladyshevsky talked about outreach, the importance of knowing your stakeholders, and getting your message out. He talked about some of the pillars of the Shevchenko Foundation, and of course he made his pitch for you to give to the Foundation, at least once. [Laughter.] He talked about the need to promote Ukrainian education. I will touch on this a little later, but the theme of my presentation is: how do we do that? How do we get there with all these great ideas that have been generated? How do we —CIUS and other academic institutions—interact with student organizations and with the community? That was Andrii Hladyshevsky’s message.

Olya Kuplowska spoke about the Canadian Foundation for Ukrainian Studies and some of the challenges that it is facing, as well as many new needs. She mentioned that rigid restrictions on the use of endowments cause problems because of ever-changing priorities in Ukrainian studies. There are also challenges in the administration of existing funds. She talked about donor development and the desire of some donors to focus on one area, which raises the problem of long-term limitations. There is an issue with attracting new donors, and we have to consider how to interest donors and demonstrate the value of Ukrainian studies to new donors.

I emphasize that Ukrainian-Canadian studies are not independent of the Ukrainian-Canadian community. That has been a theme throughout the discussions here, addressed in particular by Professor Lupul. It is really important for us, at this conference in particular but also on an ongoing basis, to review our successes and our disappointments and address them effectively.

Roman Petryshyn spoke about the governance of our foundation money and gave us an interesting description of our community as a “community of communities,” which I fully support, because the Ukrainian-Canadian community is not a monolith. We need more endowments, because there is a correlation between endowments and the success of Ukrainian studies. We talked about endowments in community foundations—the value of having our endowments not with universities but with community foundations like the Taras Shevchenko Foundation. That would not only add efficiency, which Dr. Petryshyn focused on, but also increase autonomy and enhance bargaining power with academic institutions. Talking about the $54 million of endowments in Western Canada, a large percentage are focused on studies of Ukraine, and the administration fees of $3.8 million are very large. That money that could be put back into Ukrainian-Canadian education or elsewhere.

We talked about constant administrative change at universities and the challenges we face as a result. We have to be vigilant when administrative changes happen, and, as Nadia Jacyk said, we have to do something about them to protect the endowments.

Other issues, such as recapitalization of endowments, are often not addressed, which also applies to the administration of endowments and teaching our donors to set them up properly. That is why the concept of a consortium of directors and a national network of fundraisers is very critical. It would ensure the efficacy of endowment agreements and other agreements we have with universities: these should not have to be relearned over and over again.

Another important theme was the strategic administration of endowments: what do we need from Ukrainian studies and how do we get there? Also some of the challenges with endowments: if there is no student demand, then professors could be reassigned, which defeats the purpose of the endowments. We talked about a national network of fundraisers and the importance of focusing on strategic priorities, which need to be explained to our stakeholders.

Nadia Jacyk talked about the vision of the Petro Jacyk Education Foundation as both donor and recipient, and Petro Jacyk’s vision of supporting CIUS. A very interesting theme that she introduced, which I think after forty years we can be really proud of, is that CIUS’s focus on education [assisted in] establishing Ukrainians as a nation [in the eyes of the Western world]. Forty years ago it was much more difficult to take that for granted: CIUS has delivered on it with support from the Petro Jacyk Education Foundation. Nadia also talked about funding programs rather than endowments: scholarships can make possible strategic placement and flexibility. She talked about maximizing the productivity of our funds, being adaptable, and being competitive. We constantly need to monitor counterproductive behaviour at universities, such as unilateral increases in administrative costs of fundraising, and take action against it.

Nadia mentioned that she and others have written, but often the community is not mobilized to support such initiatives. It is also very important, as Nadia mentioned, to hire charismatic, committed scholars and educators who will attract undergraduate and graduate students.

Succession planning is also very important: CIUS is and must remain a national centre for Ukrainian education. In conclusion, Nadia talked about tangible and measurable results.

A fundamental theme underlying this discussion is the importance of the Ukrainian-Canadian community and its connection to Ukrainian studies. Because the community has a vested interest in Ukrainian studies, it began to fund them. We must connect with those stakeholders and understand their needs—including future students. Are we reaching out to youth and student organizations? Are they participating in conferences of this kind? We have to go out of our way to ensure that they do. We also have to reassess what we have done well and what have we not done so well, and ask ourselves: does the community really understand CIUS’s vision?

I will be frank: I do not think it does. There is a misconception in our community that CIUS is responsible for all education in Canada—for teaching, not just research, so we must ask ourselves: what does the community know about us? what does the community expect of us? What is the vision? Does it need to change for CIUS? Is it relevant to our stakeholders? What do community leaders want from the Ukrainian academic community? During the last three years, during the Revolution of Dignity, during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and today, with the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, an expectation has arisen that the academic community that focuses on Ukraine and Ukrainian studies should be at the forefront of ensuring that Canadians, those formulating public policy and decision makers, are properly educated. I understand the need for academic independence, but if you are knowledgeable about Ukraine and Ukrainian politics, there is an expectation from the community that you will be at the forefront advocating, participating, organizing conferences on these issues. Some are doing so, but the community does not see enough articles on these issues in the national papers and magazines. It has got to the point where our community has started to fund non-university institutions, such as think-tanks. For example, our community, through the [Ukrainian] World Congress but primarily from Canadian resources, is funding the Atlantic Council in the amount of $600,000 per year for their “Ukraine in Europe” initiative. That is what I consider an academic exercise, because they are discussing issues important to our community today. I think that is an area that Ukrainian-Canadian studies have missed out on. I am not being critical: I am looking at this as a future opportunity.

Again, our community leaders are looking to academia to help influence the public and policymakers, and I think the academic community can expect the Ukrainian-Canadian community to advocate on its behalf. Earlier today, Professor Magocsi called on for advocacy on behalf of Ukrainian studies, which is, quite frankly, within our mandate, and we should be doing it. I would like to sit down after this conference to discuss it a little further.

I would also like to talk about different models. There are models such as the Sheptytsky Institute.[1] They have two endowed chairs and a foundation, and they are able to pick and choose. You may have heard, just a few weeks ago there was an announcement that the Sheptytsky Institute is moving from the University of Ottawa to St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto. […] If you can pick up your foundation and move it to a university more conducive to you, then you have flexibility and bargaining power.

There is also the example of the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter.[2] I would argue that it is an academic initiative with maximum flexibility—a living and breathing initiative that accesses Ukrainian studies but is not committed to any particular institution. There are organizations such as the Holodomor Research and Education Consortium [a unit of CIUS]; and there is the Ukrainian Catholic University [in Lviv], which has a very interesting model.

There are models we should be looking at and opportunities for us to continue to grow and be more effective. There is a sense, though, that the academic community does not want the community meddling in its activities, and asserts its need to have academic independence—which, frankly, I fully support. There is an opportunity now to change that paradigm and establish a much closer relationship between academia and the community. You should be looking to the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, and the Ukrainian World Congress, as your international and Canadian partners. There has been some discussion at our board table at the Ukrainian Canadian Congress as to whether institutions such as CIUS should be invited to become members of the UCC. I know that when I mention it here, there is probably an initial reaction and a fear that “uh-oh, that rabid Ukrainian diaspora, they just want to control us.” By the way, “rabid diaspora,” for those who do not know, was a phrase that [Russian] Foreign Minister [Sergei] Lavrov used not so long ago to refer to the Ukrainian-Canadian diaspora in some public remarks he made to the CBC. Some of us are very proud to be considered a “rabid Ukrainian-Canadian diaspora.” But trust me, we are not going to be rabid with the academic community here in Canada.

First of all, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress has evolved. It is an organization of organizations. Our job is to bring together everything Ukrainian, whether it is the arts community, youth, religious communities, or academia. In fact, at our 25th triennial congress of Ukrainian Canadians, which we concluded just two weeks ago (where I had the privilege of receiving another three-year mandate), there was a session dedicated to CIUS@40. I just want to quickly read to you the resolution that came out of that session, and I hope it is appropriate to what we have talked about.

Whereas it is important that UCC have access to the most up-to-date scholarly information about Ukraine, be it resolved that an academic advisory council of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress be established, consisting of scholars, specialists in Ukrainian studies in various fields, which could provide advice to the UCC president and executive on matters related to their areas of specialty or expertise.

This is something that I fully support and endorse. I have had discussions with some of you, including Frank Sysyn and others, about the possibility of creating something like this. Whether it is a matter of CIUS becoming a formal member of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress or not, I think that is less relevant than bringing people together. I fully support and endorse the creation of a loosely affiliated council of scholars in Ukrainian studies that could come together as needed, with an executive committee made up of scholars that would address issues important to Ukrainian academic studies in Canada and even internationally.

This would be an opportunity to provide ongoing advice to the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, because our role has been to influence public perceptions and to influence policymakers. And that is why we are constantly developing policy papers on various issues, whether it is Canadian foreign policy vis-à-vis Ukraine and Russia, defense policy, technical and international assistance, or heritage. We have very well-developed policy positions that we have presented to government, and we continue to advocate. These are areas where we would love to connect—and we do, but perhaps not in a very organized manner—with academics in Ukrainian studies. But there is a great opportunity there, so I would like to end my remarks by calling on us—and I would like to hear your comments on this—for the creation of a council of scholars in Ukrainian studies within the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.

[1]     Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies (