Ol'ga Kizhlo sacrificed a lot to earn her MBA at Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business, having to leave behind her young daughter in Ukraine for two years, only seeing her during a few visits home.
"I thought it was worth trying to improve my future so that I could give more to my daughter," says Kizhlo, MBA '05, one of four Muskie scholars who studied at the business school during the 2004-05 academic year.
The Edmund S. Muskie Graduate Fellowship program provides citizens of former Soviet republics with full scholarships and additional financial support to study at the master's level in the United States. Established in 1992 to support economic development and democracy in the former Soviet Union, the highly competitive program brings up to 300 students a year to study in dozens of fields at hundreds of U.S. schools. They must return home after graduation to make contributions there.
Four is the largest number of Muskie scholars ever placed at the Scheller College of Business in a single year. In addition to Kizhlo, Nargiza Asanbaeva of Uzbekistan also graduated in the spring. Vladimir Kulagin and Konstantin Shkonda, both of Russia, will finish the MBA program next year.
Kizhlo, 32, is old enough to well remember the troubled times of her country's early years of independence, when salaries vanished, inflation skyrocketed, and crime spread out of control. She hopes the recent ouster of a corrupt president accelerates the growth of Ukraine's already improving economy.
To take advantage of all the opportunity in her homeland, Kizhlo decided to shift her career from computer education to investment banking, electing to study in America because of the top-notch education available in her chosen field. "Whenever business is growing and cash is piling up, people need to know how to invest it," says Kizhlo, who recently returned home to begin her new career and reunite with her seven-year-old daughter, who was cared for by her grandmother during her studies. "Right now they don't know how."
Kulagin, 26, grew up during the burgeoning of Russia's new economy, so he doesn't recall much about the communist system. "The way Russia is now is the way I always remember it," he says. Previously an economic analyst for a U.S. Consulate in Russia, Kulagin says he's been surprised to see the many similarities between the Russian and American ways of doing business. Therefore, he'll be able to apply much of what he's learned to his planned career in finance back home, he says.
Kizhlo, who only knew of Atlanta from the Olympics and "Gone with the Wind" before arriving, says she was amazed by the diversity of the Scheller College of Business's MBA student body. Her class included numerous students from 18 countries. "I never met so many people from so many different parts of the world," she says, adding that international students felt bonded by their differences in adapting to a new culture.