Ukrainian Students Prepare to Arrive at Kettering College

Ukrainian students meet over Zoom to discuss details about studying at Kettering College.

Nearly 25 students will arrive from Ukraine this week to begin their studies at Kettering College. Their lives and education have been disrupted by war in their country. When the Euro-Asia Division of Seventh-day Adventists (SDA) reached out to universities nationwide asking for assistance, Kettering College President Nate Brandstater was moved to help.

He asked faculty, staff and Kettering Health if he would have their support in bringing students to our college. He knew it was a big ask, and he admitted he did not have all the answers on how to make it happen, but everyone agreed they wanted to make it happen together.

Since the decision was made in the spring, every department at Kettering College has worked hard to tackle the logistics of welcoming students here. Dean of Academic Affairs Scott Bennie says, “The college has taken several steps to support and encourage the success of the Ukrainian students. These include:

  • Examination of English language proficiency
  • Identification of English as a Second Language (ESL) resources
  • Creation of language proficiency-appropriate courses, and
  • Providing education to faculty and staff around Ukrainian culture and education, so that we can better understand and be prepared to serve this unique student group.”

Drs. Maria Rankin-Brown and Justina Or have lived in various countries, and both professors have extensive experience teaching English as a Second/Foreign Language as ESL educators. They have been working closely with the admissions team to process the students’ necessary I-20 language proficiency verification forms.

Given that Ukrainian colleges and language centers are not open due to the war to provide official verification of test scores, Drs. Or and Rankin-Brown developed an in-house process to test students’ English-language proficiency, which includes administering an international English placement test of reading and writing.

Dr. Rankin-Brown says, “Once students arrive, we can further assess their needs and better determine how to meet those needs. Even if they meet the standards, we know that they will need additional support once arriving, particularly with acculturation experiences.”

This is where Director of Student Success Dustin Waters steps in. He will meet individually each week with the students to coach them and assist with anything needed, from setting up bank accounts to finding their way around the area.

“I will work with them closely to make sure they are comfortable and adjusting to being a student at Kettering College, as well as being an international student in America.”

-Dustin Waters, Director of Student Success

Dustin recently moved back to America after having lived in Korea for 14 years, so he has a personal understanding of what the Ukrainian students will experience as they acclimate to their new lives. He is prepared to walk them through any obstacles as they come.

The international students will reside in our residence hall on campus. Judith Mendoza, Associate Director of Residence Life, says, “We are excited to welcome them into the residence hall and have been preparing for move-in day.” 

She was happy to see when graduating students heard Ukrainian students are coming, they left behind some of their own items to help make the dorm rooms homier. Students also donated dishes for the shared kitchens and non-perishable food. 

The dorm staff have started their training with community building being the main priority. She says, “We want the dorm to feel like home. We’ve also included more cultural events into our programming, so we can learn about them as much as they’re learning here.”

“We know this will create a cultural shift in the dorm, and we are excited to see what that is.”

-Judith Mendoza, Associate Director of Residence Life

She isn’t sure what students will be able to pack and bring on the plane, so she has been accepting donations for anything from linens to toiletries. Please email her at if you would like to assist.  

Konstantin Kampen is the education director for the Ukrainian students through the Euro-Asia division of SDA. He reports the students are excited, nervous, and grateful for this life-changing opportunity as they pack and prepare for their adventure.

President Nate Brandstater said yes to lead this charge, and our campus and Kettering Health leadership has followed. We understand the power of serving others and moving forward in faith, even when the answers are not clear. We will provide education and hope to the students, and they, in turn, will teach us in countless ways in the coming years.

To support the Ukrainian Student Initiative, click here.


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