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Meet the next generation of Ukraine’s leaders


From left to right: Nataliya Mykolska, Ivan Prymachenko, and Oleksandra Ustinova
Photo credit: 
Oleksandr Avramchuk


Selected from among 668 applicants, the 2018-19 Ukrainian Emerging Leaders at Stanford’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) stood out for their outstanding civic records, leadership potential and contributions to Ukraine’s political and social development.

Nataliya Mykolska, Ivan Prymachenko, and Oleksandra Ustinova will arrive to Stanford this September to begin the 10-month fellowship program. Taking courses with leading faculty and working on fellowship projects, these emerging leaders will step back from the demands of their work and immerse themselves in an academic experience that will reset their professional trajectories.

Since the 2013-14 Revolution of Dignity, Ukraine has fought to define itself as a democracy. Not only has it faced external challenges in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, but also internal ones as it grapples with institution-building and reforms. These three incoming fellows are all pioneering new approaches to dismantle the Soviet past and re-shape the future of their country. From export promotion to education reform to anti-corruption work, their projects at Stanford will contribute to Ukraine’s democratic transition.

As the first year of the Ukrainian Emerging Leaders Program draws to a close, the inaugural cohort of fellows will return to Ukraine to apply what they learned and work on reforms that will shape their country. They will join a community of mid-career practitioners in Ukraine who have graduated from CDDRL’s other core leadership programs - the Draper Hills Summer Fellows Program and the Leadership Academy for Development.

The Ukrainian Emerging Leaders Program would not be possible without the support of a generous set of donors who have made this program possible, including; Western NIS Enterprise Fund; Svyatoslav Vakarchuk; Tomas Fiala; Rustem Umerov; Oleksandr Kosovan; and Viktor and Iryna Ivanchyk.






Name: Nataliya Mykolska, @mykolska

Hometown: Kyiv and Lviv, Ukraine

Organizational affiliation: Trade Representative of Ukraine - Deputy Minister of Economic Development and Trade


Professional Background:

- In the Ukrainian government, I am responsible for developing and implementing consistent, predictable and efficient trade policy. I focus on export strategy and promotion, building an effective system of state support for Ukrainian exports, free trade agreements, protecting Ukrainian trade interests in the World Trade Organization, dialogue with Ukrainian exporters, and removing trade barriers. Prior to joining the government, I worked for almost 15 years as a legal counsel in top Ukrainian law firms, with a concentration on all aspects of international trade.


Why do you do the work you do?

- I do believe in international trade and that it brings growth to the world economy and prosperity to the world. I also believe that exports are not only driving Ukraine’s economy but are of paramount importance for further development and growth of Ukraine. Exports change Ukraine and Ukrainian businesses. Moreover, improving Ukraine’s export strategy will change people’s mindset -it will not only create a new generation of businesses but a new generation of Ukrainians.


What do you hope to achieve at Stanford through the fellowship and your project?

- For me, this program is an opportunity to enhance my academic foundation and skills to reload and upgrade in order to develop a strategic vision and apply relevant implementation instruments, and thus to achieve a higher level of professional and personal development. This is a tremendous opportunity to work on an ambitious vision of Ukraine as an exporting nation. The project will create a program to help Ukrainians understand why exporting is important not only for the further development and growth of Ukraine, but also how it impacts them directly. I plan to do this through education, culture, social movements and changing mindsets. This campaign should promote efforts to increase exports, and not only create a new generation of business, but a new Ukrainian perspective on exports.


Favorite quote or fun fact about yourself? 

“What was a progress yesterday, will be the ichthyosaurs tomorrow.” Lina Kostenko, Ukrainian poet and writer.





Name: Ivan Prymachenko@iprymachenko

Hometown: Donetsk, Ukraine

Organizational affiliation: Prometheus


Professional Background:

- I am an educational technology innovator and co-founder of the largest Ukrainian massive open online courses platform Prometheus, which has 600,000 users. Prometheus hosts 75 massive online courses from top-rated Ukrainian universities, governmental bodies, international organizations such as United Nations Development Program, the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and leading companies such as Microsoft Ukraine and Ernst and Young Ukraine. Among my organization’s key activities is the integration of our courses as a part of the curricula in Ukraine’s educational facilities in a blended learning format: twenty-two Ukrainian universities are already participating in this program.


Why do you do the work you do?

- In high school, I loved history but had to travel for hours to study with one of the few renowned historians in my region. With her guidance, I won the All-Ukrainian competition in history, an accomplishment that got me admitted to the best Ukrainian university. Quality education was the key to my future. Now, with the use of new technologies, I want to bring free access to the best education to every student in Ukraine.


What do you hope to achieve at Stanford through the fellowship and your project?

- At Stanford, I plan to design a technology-driven Ukrainian education reform roadmap, covering the teaching process itself, retraining of teachers and integrating the principles of financing. I want to research cutting-edge educational practices and to learn how to scale them for millions of students in Ukraine and eventually worldwide. My intended impact is to create equal educational opportunities that will kick-start economic development and promote citizens’ participation in social and political life.


Favorite quote or fun fact about yourself? 

- To launch the first massive open online course in Ukraine as a student-historian in 2013, I studied programming with the help of massive open online courses from American universities and created a website for the project on my own.






Name: Oleksandra (Sasha) Ustinova

Hometown: Kyiv, Ukraine

Organizational affiliation: Anti-Corruption Action Center (ANTAC)


Professional Background:

- I am a board member of the Anti-corruption Action Center (ANTAC) where I direct communications strategy and advocacy campaigns. I have been working in this field for over ten years. Previously I ran the press-center for the National Anti-Tobacco movement that resulted in the ban of tobacco advertisements and smoking in public places, as well as the increase of taxes on tobacco products.

Since the 2013-14 revolution on Maidan, one of Ukraine’s major struggles in building its democracy has been the one against corruption. My team has advocated for over 20 laws establishing new anti-corruption bodies, such as the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor and Anti-Corruption Court, as well as for public access to land and property registers, criminal liability for illicit enrichment and other anti-corruption tools. I also manage the Corruption in Healthcare Project which focuses on reforming the medical procurement process.


Why do you do the work you do?

- I personally believe that if everyone gives up 10 percent of their time for something good we could change the world. A lot changed with the Revolution of Dignity when my countrymen died for a better future for Ukraine. After 2014, I gave up a well-paid job in an American IT company and began working full-time to fight corruption. Corruption is Ukraine’s second front, other than the war with Russia. A lot of young men, including friends of mine, went to fight in the war in Eastern Ukraine and never returned. Corruption is the battle I can fight: That’s why I have to do what I can to change the country.


What do you hope to achieve at Stanford through the fellowship and your project?

- I want to study the best anti-corruption practices, cultural behavior changes and new trends in politics to return with a campaign to implement. The heart of it will be to change Ukrainians’ attitudes toward corruption. Currently many Ukrainians see corrupt officials as successful businessmen rather than thieves. With the rise of populism, the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2019 may see these officials gaining power. This attitude of accepting corruption needs to change and I hope to learn the best practices for fighting this mindset. Once successfully implemented in Ukraine, the communication campaign I design at Stanford could be replicated in other Post-Soviet countries. I am convinced that Ukraine is a laboratory for new anti-corruption solutions and good governance tools.

Favorite quote or fun fact about yourself?

 - Dream Big!