Olena Lennon, Ph.D.

Olena Lennon Headshot Adjunct

Division of Humanities and Social Sciences
College of Arts and Sciences

Ph.D. Educational Leadership & Higher Education, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

M.A. Educational Administration, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

M.A. Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL), Gorlivka Pedagogical Institute of Foreign Languages

B.A. English, Gorlivka Pedagogical Institute of Foreign Languages

About Olena

Olena Lennon is an adjunct professor of Political Science, teaching such courses as the U.S. Foreign & Defense Policy, International Relations, Conflict Resolution, and American Government. She also works as a professional Writing Tutor at the Center for Learning Resources and teaches Social Statistics at Southern Connecticut State University.

I first started teaching in Ukraine and after three years of teaching, I received a Fulbright scholarship to study Educational Administration at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where I earned a second Master’s in Educational Administration and a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership, with minors in Political Science (International Relations) and Statistics. On completion of my Ph.D. in 2011, I moved back to Ukraine for two years to fulfill my Fulbright obligations.

I returned to the U.S. in September 2013, shortly before the onset of the war in eastern Ukraine. With my family remaining in the active war zone, I have kept my finger on the pulse through direct communication with people on the ground and local media outlets. Since then, I have participated in several panels related to issues in Ukraine, facilitating a more informed and objective analysis of this conflict.

I am a strong believer in data-driven decision making. My current research interests include reconciliation, conflict resolution, national identity building, and civic education. I have recently participated in Carnegie Corporation’s research project, alongside distinguished scholars from Yale University, Columbia University, City College of New York, and Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars to design policy recommendations for a possible resolution of the current conflict in Ukraine. I contributed to the project by analyzing the correlation between higher education and national security in Ukraine. My work also appeared in Foreign Affairs, The National Interest, Journal of Political Risk, Yale Global, Higher Education in Europe, and others.

My approach to teaching is being a student. I learn from my students and my teaching philosophy is constantly evolving. Not a day goes by that I don’t reflect on ways I can improve my students’ learning. My teaching is an organic process and it changes with time. But there are three fundamental principles that are timeless. First, I believe that students learn better when they have a sense of ownership of their learning. Second, learning is most effective when it is experiential. I believe every time students walk out of the classroom, they must understand how material learned in class is applied in their daily lives. My third, and final, fundamental principle of teaching is mixing up teaching formats and techniques to appeal to a broad range of learning strategies and abilities. But what’s even more timeless for me than those three principles is three loves, famously described by Scott Hayden: love of learning, love of learners, and the love of bringing the first two loves together.

Selected Publications

Lennon, O. (forthcoming). Why Saving Universities in Eastern Ukraine is a National Security Prerogative. Columbia International Affairs Online.

Lennon, O. (2016). Ukraine’s Imaginary Patients: Why Health Care Reform is Long Overdue, Fair Observer, January 26, 2016.

Lennon, O., Milakovsky, B. (2015). Is Europe’s Buffer Zone in Ukraine Keeping it Safe? Fair Observer , December 4, 2015. Article named in the list of top 30 articles of 2015 (#21) on Johnson's Russia List, a project of the Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies (IERES) at The George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs.

Lennon, O. (2015). Wanted: Competent Foreigners to Work for Ukrainian Government. YaleGlobal, 27 October 2015.

Lennon, O., Laskin, A. The Winners and Losers of anti-Russian Sanctions. Journal of Political Risk, 3 (10), August 2015.

Lennon, O. (2015). No Time to Wait: Why Reconciliation in Ukraine Must (And Can) Happen Now. The National Interest, July 27, 2015.

Lennon, O. (2015). Abandoned: The Kiev Government's Isolation of Eastern Ukrainians. The National Interest, May 20, 2015.

Lennon, O. (2015). Ukrainian Politics Abroad. How the Ukrainian Diaspora Sees the Homeland. Foreign Affairs, March 17, 2015.

Kovtun, O. (2011). International student adaptation to a U.S. college: A mixed methods exploration of the impact of a specialized first-year course at a large Midwestern institution. Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 48 (3). DOI: 10.2202/1949-6605.6336

Kovtun, O., Stick, S. (2009). Ukraine and the Bologna process: A case study of the impact of the Bologna process on Ukrainian state institutions. Higher Education in Europe, 34 (1), 91-103.

Invited Talks

“Ukraine’s Education: What’s in Store for War-Affected Children” – Molloy College, November 6, 2015

“Terror in Transition II: Ukraine a Year Later” – Molloy College, October 7, 2015

“The Relationship between Eastern Ukrainian Universities and Democratic Reform” – University of New Haven, September 15, 2015

“A Resurgent Russia: What It Means for the West” –The Academy of International Business US-Northeast Chapter, Quinnipiac University, April 2, 2015

“Daily Life in Ukraine’s War Zone” – University of New Haven, September 22, 2014

Personal Statement

I have always been interested in politics, especially on a global level, but in 2013, politics became personal to me. When the war in my native eastern Ukraine broke out, I desperately tried to understand why one of the most peaceful countries on earth descended into madness. As the tensions between warring sides intensified, so did the tensions among my family and friends. I bore witness to how easily people fell for propaganda, and how dangerous – literally, life-threatening – limited knowledge of politics, history and international relations could be, leading to gross misjudgment and miscalculation of the situation at hand, prompting people to pick up guns and kill their next-door “enemies.” The war in Ukraine made me realize that if people had received better civic education, focused on analytical and critical thinking, had understood international affairs and the inevitable interconnectedness of us all, and had learned to analyze issues from conflicting perspectives, they could have made better decisions for themselves and their countries. It was also clear that people did not want to accept ideas that did not conform to their prior beliefs – this close-mindedness led to devastating effects.

Indeed, close-mindedness is a dangerous quality and education is the best tool to combat it. We need to study politics, history, culture, and geopolitics of other countries because we no longer have the luxury to be disaffected by what is happening overseas. For example, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine led, in no small measure, to the decline of oil prices in the U.S., which sparked enthusiasm for road trips for some, but at the same time, led many in Oklahoma and Louisiana to tighten their belts. China is building islands in South China Sea – the U.S. defense budget goes up, but education and retirement funds suffer as a result. Even problems in Greece backfire on us – after all, every time the EU has to bail out one of its members, the U.S. dollar becomes stronger, a seemingly positive event not least because traveling to Europe becomes cheaper, but it may also make U.S. products more expensive, rendering certain industries uncompetitive, and before you know it – your job has been discontinued. And the list goes on.

When I teach either international relations or foreign policy, the very first thing I ask my students is whether they think international affairs affect their personal lives, and most typically say, “no, they don’t.” My goal then becomes to change that perception at least by the end the semester, but invariably, students change their minds by the end of the first class, after I ask them to look at their clothing labels and tell me which countries they are “wearing.” Bangladesh, India, China, Pakistan, Sri-Lanka – virtually none made in the U.S.

But it’s not just trade that connects us with other countries, it is our security as well, as it depends in large part on our relationships with the rest of the world, and yes, geopolitics. Unfortunately, these geopolitical games hit me close to home, quite literally, and I learned the hard way. That’s what motivates me to teach every day – I don’t want war to be personal for my students and I don’t want them to learn the hard way. We can and should learn from other people’s mistakes and translate these lessons to better policies. Teaching inspires me because my students’ energy and passion give me hope that we won’t wait for the next tragedy to start caring about politics again, because the best way to solve a conflict is to prevent it.

I love teaching foreign policy because thoughtful, pro-active, value-based foreign policy saves lives. But the most important value I want to instill in my students echoes FDR's famous saying, "Rules are not necessarily sacred; principles are.” Policy doesn’t begin with the identification of rules, policy begins with the identification of values and priorities – only then will “right” make “might.”

Courses Taught
  • PSCI 2222 United States Foreign Policy
  • NSEC 4450 / NSPS 6674 / PSCI 4493 U.S. Foreign & Defense Policy
  • PSCI 2241 International Relations
  • PSCI 4498/NSEC 4456 Conflict Resolution
  • PSCI 1121 American Government and Politics
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