Tetyana Tomjuk, international student from Ukraine, with long blonde hair and a pink ruffled shirt in a dark background
Tetyana Tomjuk, an international student from Ukraine, is the winner of the 2024 Sue Levering Social Justice Award

The junior majoring in international relations is using her research and outreach skills to make a difference for her native country.

In 2011, Dr. Les Baltimore, then Associate Provost of Academic Affairs and Professor of History, established the Sue Levering Social Justice Award to honor a Levermore Global Scholar (LGS) who is an active and informed citizen who best represents the program’s mission of social justice and activism. He founded the award in memory of his late wife, Susan Dworkin Levering. Her life exemplified the idea of the committed citizen, and this scholarship was founded to continue her mission to make the world a more just, humane, and peaceful place.

Born on the western side of Ukraine, Tomjuk and her family immigrated to the United States in 2007, when she was only four years old. Her parents wanted her to have access to better education and professional opportunities in whatever field she wanted. “Because of the political issues in Ukraine, those opportunities just weren’t available to us,” she explained.

Her country’s political climate, and the impact it had on her family, inspired Tomjuk’s interest in social justice and international relations, which is what brought her to Adelphi. “Adelphi offered so many majors that I was interested in,” she said. “My international studies don’t feel like a chore because I’m passionate about the curriculum.” Tomjuk’s passion for her studies earned her the Levering award nomination at the end of her sophomore year.

Katie Laatikainen, PhD, professor of political science and international relations, said, “Tetyana decided relatively late to start studying international relations. When Russia invaded Ukraine, the field of international relations became personal for her.  With her family’s Ukrainian roots, she became passionate about learning international relations broadly to understand how war returned to Europe. She took part in a student debate on continuing U.S. support for Ukraine last year, which deepened her activism and advocacy role. As she has grown into this work of engagement, she exemplifies the values and mission of the LGS program that the Sue Levering award honors.”

Raising Awareness for the Russia–Ukraine War

As a part of the award process, the awardee needs to come up with a project that involves global justice. Tomjuk chose to run an awareness campaign around the Russia–Ukraine war that began in 2022.

The war hits particularly close to home for Tomjuk. About half of her family is still in Ukraine, although they fortunately live in the unoccupied, western territories.

Tomjuk said that while the war received attention in the United States when it first broke out, “I felt like there was a huge decline of interest in the weeks after the war,” she explained. “There wasn’t as much news coverage about it, not as many conversations. And not as many donations for the Ukrainian community.”

As part of her campaign, Tomjuk coordinated with her local Ukrainian church, St. Michael’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Uniondale, to hold a fundraising event in October 2023 for people to donate funds and warm winter clothing to families in eastern Ukraine.

She also created and administered a questionnaire for event attendees about the Russia–Ukraine war. About 90 percent of the students polled didn’t answer more than two questions correctly. “It’s not that people don’t care, they’re just not aware,” Tomjuk said.

In March 2024, she organized and moderated a virtual event as a follow-up to her questionnaire. Tomjuk sat on a panel with Dong Wook Lee, PhD, assistant professor, and Robert Saunders, PhD, adjunct professor, both of whom teach political science and international relations, to provide a more detailed, in-depth overview as to how the Russia–Ukraine conflict reached this point historically. Tomjuk said she was pleased with the audience’s engagement, both online and in person.

Continuing the Fight for Social Justice

Tomjuk is only in her junior year, but she’s already thinking beyond her 2025 graduation. She may pursue a master’s degree in a field within international relations, something a bit more specific than what she’s studying now. She also hopes to be a diplomat for the United Nations, a desire that was inspired by her international relations classes with Dr. Laatikainen. But until then, Tomjuk will continue to spread awareness about global issues and fight for social justice.

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