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From the Dean: Considering Those Impacted by War and Taking Stock in Our Work

December 13, 2023

Many of you will read this letter amid a long holiday season, a time traditionally spent with loved ones. As I write, the first signs of winter have dusted the ground in Syracuse; it is nearly Thanksgiving, and heavy in my thoughts are those near and far who cannot be with the ones they hold dear.

In the Middle East, we are witnessing a war between Israel and Hamas that has cost thousands of innocent Israeli and Palestinian lives and has brought a wave of antisemitic and Islamophobic incidents to U.S. cities and college campuses. Our cover story, produced before the Hamas attack, focuses on another embattled country—Ukraine. Tragically, a lasting resolution does not seem imminent for either Ukraine or the Middle East.

Both conflicts have deeply impacted members of the Maxwell community. Among us are students, alumni, colleagues and friends grappling with a heightened fear of harassment, discrimination and violence because of their backgrounds and beliefs.

Some have close ties to these war-torn regions and are hurting on a deeper level. Please show them empathy and support.

Last spring, the mayor of Irpin, Ukraine, visited the Maxwell School while in Syracuse to sign a sister city proclamation linking our two communities. He shared with us how he and fellow civilians joined Ukrainian forces to defeat Russian invaders shortly after the invasion began.

As the mayor described the fight to defend and rebuild his city, I considered my privilege. I’ve never known what it is like to be displaced from my home or loved ones. I’ve not had to worry that my parents or children will become casualties of war. I’ve not feared for my safety, or my life, because of my nationality, my faith, or even my research. In the pages that follow, we profile Maxwell’s scholars from Ukraine who now call Syracuse their home. They include Tetiana Hranchak, whose research on propaganda, misinformation and the “politics of memory” would make her a target of Russian forces. Through our partnership with the Scholars at Risk Network, she joins us as a visiting assistant teaching professor. She told us, “I’m extremely grateful that the University connected with this organization.”

We also share the work of faculty like the Hon. James Baker, Vice Admiral Robert Murrett (Ret.), and Professor Brian Taylor, who not only conduct critical research into the rule of law, international politics and peace and security, but also are helping to build networks of scholarship and training to support democracy in Ukraine. I am thankful that we live in a place that holds sacred our right to pursue our research; to speak our minds and express our ideas, including those that may challenge authority; and to live—and disagree—peacefully.

Reading these stories and seeing our campus through the eyes of Tetiana Hranchak and others, like students Yulia Bychkovska and Eduard Gusak, is a reminder of the importance of the work we do at Maxwell to uphold democracy, fight injustice, and promote peace and security. Amid continued global unrest, these are fundamental ideas that we at Maxwell agree on. And, while we may differ in our political, religious or social beliefs, we strive to be an inclusive environment where we work together to make the world a better place.

For your continued support of this critical work, I am grateful.

Cursive signature of Dean David Van Slyke

David M. Van Slyke
Dean, Maxwell School
Louis A. Bantle Chair in Business and Government Policy

Published in the Fall 2023 issue of the Maxwell Perspective


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