Marianna Bilyk (Kaspryshyn) is Program Director of the charitable organization Ukrainian Education Platform and a graduate of Ukrainian Catholic University.

Marianna entered the UCU bachelor’s program in Social Pedagogy in 2006. At first, she planned to study history, but when she came to present her documents, she found out about the opening of a new program: “All my life I dreamed of being a teacher-pedagogue. So I immediately registered for that specialty. Studies were very interesting and relevant. I continued on this path and my current profession is connected with this field.”

Marianna now works for the charitable organization Ukrainian Educational Platform, whose mission is to build a country of responsible people through innovative social projects and educational programs for civic leaders and organizations.

“We strive so that people will learn to take responsibility for themselves and implement initiatives to improve and develop their communities. Our activities cover several areas. One of them is social, which has the goal of supporting families in need and preventing children from going into institutions. Another area is leadership and service. This involves the support of parishes and Christian communities which have significant influence on the development of the community. The third area is civic education: by providing this, we raise people’s awareness of matters of citizenship. We want people to take responsibility for the political situation in their communities, to get involved in the life of society. And the last area is sustainability, as part of which we are developing centers of sustainability in Ukraine.”

Marianna says that study at Ukrainian Catholic University changed her paradigm of thinking and allowed her to understand the principle of respecting the dignity of each human being: “I continue to be guided by this principle in my daily activities: in work, projects, and in my family. The university offers an absolutely different view of the world, through the prism of humaneness, dignity, and liberty.”

When studying at UCU, Marianna received a need-based scholarship, which was a great help for her mother, who on her own was paying for the girl’s studies.

Looking back at her experience of study, Marianna says that an important aspect of the education that UCU provides is the opportunity to reflect: “You can acquire knowledge, but if you don’t experience it, talk it over, even put it in doubt, then that knowledge doesn’t become your own. I recently heard the idea that knowledge without reflection is of no use, and reflection without knowledge is harmful. UCU encourages both one and the other.”

In addition, she notes the various opportunities which the university offers for the young person’s development: “The English Summer School made a big impression on me. Before UCU, I studied the German language at school. So I was very worried. I didn’t think I could do it. But already on the second day of the school, I felt the great support of teachers and students. It was one of the most outstanding times of my life. Also, our Social Pedagogy Department made sure that we attended various consultations. My group traveled to Mykolayiv, attended conferences, and received new experience.”

She said that the university is an environment which values the young person and shows how powerful he or she can be: “I was 17 when I came to UCU. I was a rebel. I had a lot of earrings. In my first year I looked very unusual. But the whole time of my studies, I never heard a word that would offend me. I gave the university a challenge, and it worthily took it up. Whoever you are, Ukrainian Catholic University accepts you with your views and principles. This is about trust, and an environment that respects you and shows you how strong you can be,” Marianna sums up.