UTC greets first two Ukrainian grad students in new program

Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Arsen Martyshchuk and Nina Klimenkova pose for a photo at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga on Wednesday, September 21, 2022. The two are beneficiaries of UTC's Global Response Assistantship.

Russia's February invasion of Ukraine had barely begun when Takeo Suzuki started texting and messaging.

The executive director of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's Center for Global Education said he wanted to check on former students from Ukraine, many of whom were back home.

"When I asked what I could do for them, everyone just said, 'Pray for us, think of us,'" Suzuki said, "except one – she wanted weapons and arms.

"This person looks like a regular college student, the last person you'd think would say something like that," he said. "I couldn't respond. I couldn't sleep."

Suzuki said he went the next day to see UTC Chancellor Steve Angle. That meeting led to subsequent talks with the university's undergraduate and graduate student leadership and community fundraising and eventually begat the UTC Global Response Assistantship.