There are always many smiles at an UCU graduation, also hugs and important words addressed to our graduates on the way to a new stage in their lives. This day confirms their “re-birth”: from students hungry for knowledge to young, confident specialists. This year UCU has 330 graduates. The whole world lies before them today, but we offer a return again to graduation day, under the tent, and a meditation on what a university is called to impart, in addition to knowledge.

A greeting from… friends

UCU is a university that builds horizontal relations, in which the leaders of the university, administration and students are, above all, friends who listen to one another and teach one another. So the ceremonial part of the commencement was, rather, a meeting of friends who are concerned about one another’s future and so the future of the whole society.

During the ceremonial Liturgy at the University Church of the Holy Wisdom of God, the first to address the graduates was UCU President Metropolitan Archbishop Borys Gudziak. Through the parable of the wine and wineskins he gave the young people a very deep and needed message: you want good, real results; work tirelessly and don’t toss up your hands, for real value will be tested by time. Here are the Metropolitan’s words:

“We know the parable of the new and old wineskins, about the new and old wine. It’s said if you pour new wine into old skins they will crack. This parable, of course, gives attention to the quality of the skins, on the difference between new and old. But let’s turn our attention to what’s in the skins, wine. Christ speaks about the skins once, but how many times does he speak of the wine? Why? What is the quality, the meaning of the wine? Why in Psalm 103, even in the Old Testament, is it said that wine gladdens the heart of man? Why does Jesus increase the wine at the wedding feast? Why do we raise a chalice of wine at the Eucharist as a symbol of blood? Wine is a material which God uses to come close. Christ gives wine as a symbol of spilled blood…

“So I ask you, dear graduates, not to pour ‘Coca-Cola’ into your wineskins, or any other substitute for wine. Our satisfaction does not lie in this. The Christian’s true joy is in understanding that important things require time. There is no good, fast wine. It simply doesn’t exist. If they offer it to you, do not doubt that it will tear your wineskins. If you understand this and carry good wine in your wineskins, you will come closer to the truth that wine is given as a gift that prepares us for the blood of the Savior’s sacrifice, and that, in its time, calls us to sacrifice, to work in the perspective of eternity.

“At one meeting, a young man asked me: ‘Your Grace, how do you handle fatigue? We’ve worked on one thing for four years and don’t see change.’ I replied: ‘Keep on trying another 20 years, and then ask yourself the same question.’ The best wine is not prepared in four years. Don’t expect quick changes, because the Lord himself offers us his life to the end. He offers us eternity. The prospect of eternity changes everything. Let’s think: Do we live with hope for eternity? Do we want to be in eternity? Does it exist for us?”

After the Divine Liturgy, lining up to loud applause, the graduates and their mentors ceremonially entered the white tent across from the church. Then the rector of our university, Fr. Bohdan Prach, was asked to speak.

“With the Lord’s consent, we have peacefully passed this year… Thanks to the tireless work of the administrators, teachers, and staff of UCU and the sacrifices of our benefactors, we have been able to work in peace and to study, and for this blessing we thank God.” So began the speech of Fr. Prach, and he continued to address the graduates.

“Dear graduates, the blessed stage of being an UCU student ends today. And tomorrow the time will come when you should share this blessing with others. Being aware of our responsibility for you as students, we strove to offer and give you ourselves, so that you could receive what is most valuable in us. I am convinced that you also will find the strength to share your gifts in your professional, personal, and social lives. Take care that the values which you received here at our university will be the foundation of your creative work wherever the Lord God sends you. So that, wherever you are, you will pass on the smiles and joy which ‘infected’ you here. And most importantly: don’t forget that you are special, strong, wise, and educated, that the development of Ukraine lies on your shoulders. Each of you will build up our nation. We entrust this to you.”

After the rector’s words came one more moment that all were waiting for, this year’s keynote speech. “A great friend of yours will now speak to you. This is a person who cares about and prays for you. Listen carefully, because what you hear could change your lives. I have the honor to present the keynote speaker of the 18th UCU graduation, Dr. Adrian Slywotzky.” So said Archbishop Borys, and, in a red ceremonial gown, Dr. Slywotzky approached the podium. Dr. Slywotzky is an American economist of Ukrainian descent, a top specialist in modern management, author of worldwide bestsellers on questions of strategic leadership and a longtime friend of UCU. Adrian Slywotzky asked the graduates to read three Ukrainian-language works: “I climb into the tank again,” by Oksana Zabuzhko, “The Second Round by Yuriy Shevelov, and “Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky and the Principle of Positive Sum,” by Myroslav Marynovych. And he concluded his speech with the idea of 10 additional hours (the full text is available here).

“We invest in all kinds of things. I invite you to invest an additional 10 hours a week in yourselves, in your work. Why invest in yourself? To become the best in your discipline. This is a difficult challenge, but it has a profound rationale. Sun Tzu said: ‘Use the ordinary force to engage. Use the extraordinary force to win.’

“Sun Tzu spoke about the army. I’m talking about an individual, about a person who wants to develop, not partially but fully, their God-given talent. Why work to be the best? Not for your ego. Don’t worry, your ego will take care of itself. Not for money, though you can be sure the money will find you. We do it to provide radically more value to those whom we serve: customers, clients, buyers, readers, parishioners, listeners.

“What does UCU mean?

  • Ethics
  • Quality
  • Service

“Let our work, our service be of the very highest quality, the best in the whole world. Let’s invest those 10 extra hours per week in ourselves for the benefit of those we serve. When God gave you, and me, 100 points of talent, let’s execute at a 90 plus level, not at a 10% or 20% level.

“We all know the parable of the buried talent. It should be repeated every Sunday in church. This is the story of our people. Buried, slaughtered, physically destroyed, forgotten talent.

“I hope that in five years we do not speak about this parable, but live a new one – the parable of the fully developed talent. Zabuzhko wrote that each of us must work for four. When I researched the destruction of talent in the 1930s, I realized that this number is not random, but precisely calculated. Only fully developed talents will be able to achieve this.

“As importantly, you yourself know that someone who has crossed the boundary line that separates a high-quality worker from a true master creates, delivers value 10 times greater than the average. Believe me, today’s world does not need more mediocrity. It needs true masters, inspired by the spirit of service, and constant self-improvement.

“At first, you will think that 10 hours of additional work a week is a high price to pay. But, very soon, you will recognize that this is not a price, but the greatest pleasure. The true master of any craft loves their work. The search for mastery is a narrow, steep path, but it is 10 times more interesting than the broad, smooth highway of mediocrity. More interesting than television, movies, even the best story. Mastery – to be first, to be the best at what you do – that is David’s sling. Let’s put it to work.

“But most importantly – I thank you for what, in the next half century, you will achieve in the work you do. I thank you that you will create a new history. For history is not what people will talk about. History is what we, working together, will create. Create with our thinking, our faith and our actions. It’s a great time and a great opportunity to write a new chapter, a chapter of which our ancestors and our great grandchildren will be unreservedly proud.”

Then the UCU honorary doctorate, “Doctor Honoris Causa,” was presented to Zenia Kushpeta, a Canadian of Ukrainian descent, a talented pianist, pedagogue, and civic activist in the social sphere. Ms. Kushpeta is also the founder of the L’Arche community in Ukraine [L’Arche-Kovcheh], Emmaus on the territory of Ukraine, and co-founder of the Dzherelo Children’s Rehabilitation Centre in Lviv. After Kushpeta received her award and spoke, the integrational theater group Both Smiles and Tears, which operates out of UCU’s Emmaus Center, performed.

Two motivational moments were planned later in the program: first, a tradition which we recently started, speeches of the best graduating students of the bachelor’s and master’s programs.

Similar to the practices of notable universities, the two students received the titles “Salutatorian” and “Valedictorian.” “Salutator,” from the Latin, is one who reads a greeting. The “valedictor” addresses all with his or her final speech as a student.

These students, who are very successful in their studies, are also civically active, and in their work are examples of moral leadership. And so the salutatorian for 2019 was a graduate of the bachelor’s program in psychology, Diana Peretiatko. She has completed her bachelor’s studies, but still has on her shoulders a number of social projects. Guided by the rule that a person receives more than he or she gives, during her studies she became a volunteer with the Maltese Aid Service, the UCU Student Charity Center, and other initiatives. Thanks to her creative abilities, she led the art group art.ucu and a number of activities for students of the university. She received a scholarship at the Perelaz Charity Folk-Ball (scholarship in memory of Ivan Kharysh).

The valedictorian of 2019 was a graduate of the public administration program, Vladyslav Kantsyr. A real sportsman involved in running long distances, he chose the public administration program for a good start, to help him overcome the ineffective system of government administration with the help of rhythmic motions and pragmatic breakthroughs on turns. He developed his running technique while studying at the program, consulting Ukrenerho regarding international cooperation, also being an advisor at Prozorro’s Department of Public Purchasing and an expert in the economic group of the Democracy Study Center. He is now an associate expert of the team in support of reform at the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade of Ukraine, where he is involved with coordinating international technical aid.

The second motivational moment was the presentation of the UCU Rector’s Awards. For exceptional achievements in research work, they were presented to: Halyna Havrylyk (Sr. Ihnatia), a teacher in the Theology Department of the Faculty of Theology and Philosophy; Oleh Yaskiv, Doctor of Technical Sciences, Director of the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Center; Oleksandr Zaitsev, Doctor of Historical Studies, Professor of the Department of New and Modern Ukrainian History of the Humanities Faculty; Volodymyr Sklokin, Candidate’s Degree in Historical Studies, acting head of the Department of New and Modern Ukrainian History of the Humanities Faculty; Yurii Skira, Candidate’s Degree in Historical Studies, manager of projects and programs for the Center on Research of the Ukrainian-Polish-Slovak Borders at the Humanities Faculty; Yaroslav Prytula, Candidate’s Degree in Physics and Mathematics, Dean of the Faculty of Applied Sciences; Olena Haleta, Doctor of Philological Studies, Professor of the Department of Culture Studies of the Humanities Faculty; Vadymy Adadurov, Doctor of Historical Studies; Ivan Almes, Candidate’s Degree in Historical Studies: Oksana Vinnychenko, Candidate’s Degree in Historical Studies; Ihor Skochylias, Doctor of Historical Studies

“UCU will never let you go”

At the conclusion of the festivities was the ceremony of tossing off caps and the group photo. At this time, we had the opportunity to speak with some graduates and ask them about their years of study at our university. Our first “catch” was this year’s valedictorian, Vladyslav Kantsyr, who had recently stood on stage and addressed graduates like himself.

“From my first days, I understood that within these walls I was receiving something more than simply knowledge and skills, but a values-based approach, a global vision. Every day the university cultivated this in me. I was formed here as an integrated personality and a person who wants to and can change the country,” said Kantsyr.

Anastasia Vedernikova completed the bachelor’s program in computer studies at the UCU Faculty of Applied Sciences. “Today I have many memories, many emotions, many tears, and behind me, many successes, for UCU gave me another vision of the world, and more, many friends, trips, study, and tests,” explained Vedernikova. “Though I am finishing my studies at this university today, still, I will definitely always return here and I dream in the future of founding a scholarship for students, inasmuch as I was helped in this way.”

This year’s commencement saw the first graduates in the sociology program of the UCU Faculty of Social Sciences. Among the happy graduates was Anna Turchynovska. “UCU gave me very many friends, work, self-development, and not only academic but all-round. That was my four years at UCU,” says Turchynovska. “So I always recommend this university to all my friends. I say that this is an environment in which they will become different and, of course, I add that graduation with us is like in American films.”

Graduate Hnat Rushchyshyn also was not afraid four years ago to enter the newly-created program at UCU, because he trusted the university’s brand: “For me, the university is people, contacts, a community with which it’s possible to turn over mountains and fear nothing… Also, you can leave UCU, but UCU will never let you go. You will still return here…”