Power Duo in Admissions Helps Bring Ukrainian Students to Campus
In March of 2022, Nate Brandstater, president of Kettering College, answered the call to bring in up to 50 students from Ukraine to continue their studies on our campus. He quickly received agreement from faculty, staff, and Kettering Health leadership that this was something they also wanted to make happen.
President Brandstater reached out to Katrina Hill, director of admissions, and informed her of the intent to bring students over from Ukraine, where education has been halted by Russia’s invasion. Hillary Allen, Kettering College recruiter, had been at her job here only one month when she was charged with assisting in this important task. She smiles and says, “Nate felt we can do this, and we said we’d figure it out.”
Bringing international students to Kettering College is not a new process; however, bringing them from a war zone was certainly unchartered territory. Students’ official transcripts were now difficult to obtain and unable to be translated since vital Ukrainian offices have been closed.
“Nate felt we can do this, and we said we’d figure it out.”-Hillary Allen, Kettering College Recruiter
Nearly every international enrollment process had to be altered because of roadblocks. Ukrainian men were not allowed to leave their country, unless they were students, so border patrol needed more documentation that these students should be granted permission to leave their country. Students were not able to be tested in English in their country because the centers were shut down, so they had to travel to other countries to complete that.
Each day presented new obstacles to the students and the team who was trying to bring them here. The women quickly learned they would need to lean on each other and others to not only understand the process of getting the international students here, but also to adapt to daily changes brought on by the war in Ukraine. There was no roadmap—just a goal and a joint willingness to make it happen.
They met every morning to share notes, offer support to each other, and stay organized with their color-coded spreadsheets that communicated each student’s progress in the tangled process. In their meetings together, Katrina and Hillary admit they felt frustrated not knowing all the answers.
They would take a breath, and, as Hillary puts it, “Systematically talk through our racing thoughts about this process.” As they reviewed their notes and communications, Katrina would add, “Here’s what we can predict. Here’s what we have no control over.” The process pushed them both to find the right answers, knowing if they recommended the wrong thing, it could prevent a student from arriving.
“God had to have had a hand in this because there were so many odds stacked against us.”-Katrina Hill, Director of Admissions
They tackled the process one day at a time. Each day, they would try something, send out a prayer and hope it worked. Katrina says, “God had to have had a hand in this because there were so many odds stacked against us. One day we would hit a wall and be stuck, and the next day the obstacle was inexplicably removed. There was a lot of rejoicing in our daily meetings.” The women say that happened repeatedly to refuel their energy and hope and keep them focused.
Katrina notes the team relied heavily on others to continue the ongoing process. She met with our legal counsel, Saji John, to receive guidance on processes for international students. Brandstater reached out to Senator Portman’s office to see if there was anything we could do to expedite the process of obtaining visas and avoid the hurdles. Katrina explains, “Once he explained we were trying to sponsor these students, there was more of a willingness to help once our trust was earned and this was seen as a humanitarian effort.”
In addition to relying on each other and a variety of other people, Katrina and Hillary note they relied heavily on the students. Katrina observes, “So much persistence was needed from the students to get things done. They had to travel to different countries to meet with embassies, and they did it.” Although students were scared and anxious dealing with war and leaving their families, they did not give up. Hillary says, “They were excited, willing, and determined to make this work. Often their email replies would say that they weren’t worried because they knew God’s plan was big for them.”
In August, twenty-six international students arrived, mostly from Ukraine, to begin the fall 2022 semester at Kettering College. The process to get them here took nearly six months. The last two weeks before the students arrived, Hillary and Katrina admit they were running on adrenaline as this vision started to turn to a reality. Hillary beams when she says, “Seeing them is so rewarding! The week before they arrived, I was sending out final emails to them, and reality set in that we would finally meet in person.”
Katrina shakes her head in disbelief and says, “This all started from a place of not knowing anything to now having 26 students here. The whole ordeal has been a blessing. Nate said yes to this initiative, and he, and others, have been there every step of the way to assist.”
The next wave of students is expected to arrive for the winter semester. Katrina and Hillary say they feel more prepared now that they have a process developed, but they cannot predict the situation in Ukraine. They will continue to do the same diligent, faithful work they have been doing by taking it one day at a time, giving it to God, and not giving up.
Their hard work, prayers, and persistence took an idea and turned it into changing the lives of students whose education and lives have been interrupted by war. Katrina and Hillary say they feel forever changed by their work. Hillary says, “I know we can do anything now. When Katrina first came to me with this task, I had no idea how we would do it, but I told her to count me in.” Katrina agrees, and says, “Nate had a vision, and although he gave us some idea of the scope of work, none of us truly knew what waited for us. But we did it, and seeing those students on campus makes it all worth it.”