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Where have the Young Professionals Gone?

Note: This was a letter written to the Ukrainian Weekly by Andrij Wowk, the national president of UESA.

A recent editorial in The Ukrainian Weekly focused on the general activity of Ukrainian students in cultural, social, and political circles by asking the question, "Where have all the students gone?"

Although many Ukrainian American youths are active in various student clubs and Ukrainian organizations, there does appear to be another missing generation of sorts in a broader scope: individuals in their 20s and 30s who ale in the process of developing their careers.

One argument is that as young professionals develop their careers, the amount of "free time" which they can devote to social, cultural and political issues becomes reduced. However, this does not seem to be consistent with the reality of the modern Ukrainian American community. Since the wave of Ukrainian immigration after World War II, many members of our community have reached high, respectable professional-positions. These people have incredible value to people entering the business world. In fact, it would appear that our cultural ties would form an excellent foundation for developing professional level networking ties, which would aid our youth to further their careers.

In essence, there should be a second level of community involvement, into which young people can step as they leave the collegiate world. And we have already the organizations in place that would allow such involvement: the various professional organizations in the Ukrainian community. Even if one does not work in a directly related field, these organizations still hold much value for young professionals. If one Ukrainian can put another Ukrainian in contact with someone who eventually leads to the "right person" (even if that person is not Ukrainian), then our networking has tremendous value.

Ironically, although this second level does exist in the form of organizations such as the Ukrainian Engineers' Society of America (UESA), people do not appear to recognize their networking potential. The UESA, for example, recently conducted a survey to obtain a better understanding of its membership's demographics. One item that became clear was that the age of the membership was heavily skewed towards the higher end of the age scale, while the younger members were largely under-represented. This age distribution does not appear to be limited to our organization as other organizations have noticed similar divisions in their membership rolls and in the attendance at their events.

So, ultimately, we're back to the question of "where are our young professionals hiding," and what is necessary to reengage them in our Ukrainian American professional organizations. In an effort to make some progress in tackling this question, the national board of directors of UESA is organizing an informal meeting or "summit" of Ukrainian organizations and other interested parties, tentatively scheduled for March, to address this very issue. Many professional and student organizations have already expressed interest in coming to this event. The summit will serve as a brainstorming session to see what can be done to engage the missing demographic group. The goal is to develop ideas, challenge current assumptions and find potential solutions, which can be beneficial to all the respective organizations and to our young professionals.

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