Two donors enable students to study Ukrainian at ASU

Mark von Hagen, interim director of the Melikian Center

Mark von Hagen was recently appointed as interim director of the Melikian Center for Russian, Eurasian and East European Studies.


Thanks to generous support from two donors who advocate for legal reform in Ukraine, Arizona State University students can learn Ukrainian, an East Slavic language, at the Melikian Center in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“The Melikian Center is among the few centers of critical language study, serving the nation’s defense and national security needs,” said Patience T. Huntwork, donor and advisory board member. “It is time that Ukrainian is recognized as a critical language along with Russian and other languages. I hope the Ukrainian community will join in this effort to fund this project.”

Patience and her husband, James R. Huntwork, provided generous seed funding to help the center add Ukrainian language courses to its Critical Languages Institute in the summer of 2017. The center will also seek to raise funds to endow a Ukrainian Studies Program in perpetuity.

Patience, a graduate of Stanford University and Yale Law School, works as an attorney in the judiciary of the State of Arizona. Her volunteer human rights efforts in Ukraine began with her successful international campaign to persuade the American Bar Association to sever its ties with a Soviet organization, the Association of Soviet Lawyers, and continued with efforts to advocate for legal reform and the rule of law in a democratic and independent Ukraine.

In recognition of those efforts, Patience received the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews Humanitarian Award, the American Jewish Committee’s Judge Learned Hand Human Relations Award, the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix’s Certificate of Recognition and the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America’s “Man of the Year” Award. She served as a UCCA election observer for the May 2014 presidential election and the October 2014 parliamentary election in Ukraine.

“The Ukrainian language in and of itself rebuts centuries of disinformation and is the key for accessing the past and present reality of this critically important nation,” said James Huntwork, who received a master’s degree in economics and a Juris Doctor degree from Yale University. Currently, he practices transactional law with a Phoenix firm.  

Patience and James Huntwork have served as election observers in Ukraine dating back to the Gorbachev era and have worked to support commercial law reforms in independent Ukraine.

“The Ukrainian language, like all the languages we teach at the Melikian Center’s Critical Language Institute, is a gateway to a rich culture and dynamic society,” said Mark von Hagen, who was recently appointed as interim director of the Melikian Center. “After two years of Russia’s war with Ukraine, the teaching of this language will also likely become a national security priority for the United States.”

Von Hagen teaches the history of Eastern Europe and Russia with a focus on Ukrainian-Russian relations at ASU. Prior, he taught for 24 years at Columbia University, where he also chaired the history department and directed the Harriman Institute.

At the Harriman Institute, von Hagen developed Ukrainian studies in the humanities and social sciences. He is chair of the international advisory board of the German-Ukrainian Historians Commission and a member of the Steering Committee of the Leonid Nevzlin Center’s 1917 project (Hebrew University of Jerusalem). He was elected president of the International Association for Ukrainian Studies in 2002 and presided over its congress in Donetsk in 2005. He also served as president of the Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies in 2009.

During his New York years, von Hagen was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and remains a member of the Advisory Board for Europe and Asia at Human Rights Watch. He has worked with historians, archivists and educators in independent Ukraine and with diaspora institutions. In July 2013, he was elected dean of the philosophy faculty at the Ukrainian Free University in Munich and re-elected for a second term in July 2015. He received the Certificate of Honor from the Embassy of Ukraine for contributions to U.S.-Ukraine relations and to the development of Ukrainian studies.

“I remember fondly and gratefully the generosity of the Ukrainian communities of North America for our Ukrainian programming during my Columbia years,” von Hagen said.

His publications treating Ukraine include: the co-edited volume “Culture, Nation, Identity: the Ukrainian-Russian Encounter, 1600-1945” (Toronto, 2003); “War in a European Borderlands: Occupations and Occupation Plans in Galicia and Ukraine, 1914-1918” (University of Washington Press, 2007); the co-edited volume “Empire and Nationalism at War” (Bloomington, Indiana: Slavica Publishers, 2014); and “ ‘Notes and Materials’ toward a(n) (Anti-) (Post-) Colonial History of Ukraine,” in the book “The Future of the Past: New Perspectives on Ukrainian History” (forthcoming, Harvard University Press, fall 2017).

To donate to the Melikian Center’s CLI Ukrainian Fund, visit

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