Shelling rained down in the Donbass region of Eastern Ukraine four years ago, when a war broke out between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian armies. Ukrainian scholar Ararat Osipian escaped the war zone after two months, moving to Western Ukraine and Bucharest until his city, Kramatorsk, was taken back by the Ukrainian Army. But when he returned to his home in Eastern Ukraine—just 15 miles from the front line—he knew he needed to flee again.
Mason has been a haven for Osipian, who is the first endangered scholar the university is hosting through its membership in the New University in Exile Consortium. He’s thankful to be at Mason—remaining in Ukraine was extra risky based on his academic background, he says.
“I have been doing research on corruption for 20 years,” says Osipian, who described his home country as teeming with corrupt authorities and practices. “The Ukrainian authorities are not necessarily comfortable having someone who does corruption [research] and is published widely in the West.”
But the door was wide open at Mason. Osipian will continue his research at the Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center. His most recent project looks at corruption in doctoral education in Ukraine, including sales and bribery used to obtain PhDs. He’ll also teach two classes in fall 2019.
“Supporting academic freedom is fundamental to our purpose,” says Mark J. Rozell, dean of the Schar School of Policy and Government. “It is easy for us in the U.S. to forget how precious it is to have intellectual freedom from fear of sanction or punishment.”