After wars are over, conflict-ridden countries will need a new generation of well-educated leaders to rebuild their homeland from the ashes into a prosperous, democratic state. Yale should play a pivotal role in raising these leaders.

As a Ukrainian student at Yale, I cannot overstate how many years of development a war reverses in a matter of a few days. Cities I visited all around Ukraine are now being turned into rubble. It is impossible to predict how many trillions the Ukrainian economy will lose due to the war and how much the poverty level will increase. There are already millions of internally displaced people and 1.5 million refugees, and practically every Ukrainian has been economically affected by the Russian invasion. Even more important, by the time Russia withdraws, Ukraine will have lost thousands of civilians and talented, brave leaders spearheading the country’s resistance.

Every war-ravaged country experiences such difficulties. Syria has already lost $1.2 trillion and 350,000 people. Yemen experienced the world’s worst humanitarian crisis with 250,000 dead. The list continues.

Because of the immensity of the damage, rebuilding will present enormous challenges only the most well-educated decision-makers can solve. Yet, it is difficult for these countries to provide the level of education necessary for solving the world’s most acute rebuilding challenges because war destroys so much human capital and even universities physically. There may not be enough surviving well-educated leaders by the time the war ends.

As Yale’s mission is to “educat[e] aspiring leaders worldwide who serve all sectors of society,” the University should use this opportunity to make a lasting contribution to war-torn countries and the world. Yale boasts all of the necessary tools to raise the next generation of leaders in these countries: vibrant well-rounded academics in every possible sphere, excellent regional studios, the new Jackson School of Global Affairs and vigorous changemaker student culture.

Despite an immense potential contribution Yale can make to war-ravaged regions, the University is not doing enough. Organizing vigils and supporting rallies is essential, but this support is not enough to create a lasting impact on war-torn countries. The largest contribution Yale can make is to admit more students from those nations, raising the new generation of leaders capable of rebuilding.

Yet, students from conflict-ridden states are underrepresented at the University compared to other countries. According to the Office of International Students and Scholars, there are only nine students from Ukraine, a country of 44 million people (0.2 students per million), 1 Syrian (0.05 per million), 1 Afghani (0.03 per million), zero Iraqis, zero Lybyans, zero Yemenis and zero Somalis — the list of war-torn countries is not exhaustive). These numbers are even more stunning in comparison to other countries. There are 2.9 South Korean students per one million inhabitants, 3.9 Israelis, 0.5 Turks, 0.9 Italians, etc. The situation is even worse when focusing exclusively on Yale College. In 2019, the last year this data was available, Yale had only two Ukrainian undergraduates and none from the other war-torn countries mentioned above.

Admitting students who lived in conflict-ridden states most of their lives is essential to raising the new generation of leaders for those countries. Yale should not suffice with welcoming American-educated, second-generation immigrants whose parents came from those places. Those who lived in war-torn regions understand their homeland much better and are therefore better equipped to apply a Yale education to solving local challenges. They can bring a completely different perspective on campus, contributing to Yale’s mission of intellectual diversity. They are also more likely to come back home, to their families and the places they grew up in, and use their Yale education to rebuild their homeland.

It is impossible to precisely say how many students from war-ravaged countries apply to Yale, as the University does not publish this data. However, I can personally attest to the multitude of Ukrainians applying to America’s best universities. I am an alumnus of Ukraine Global Scholars, a nonprofit that helps talented low-income Ukrainian high school students enter top boarding schools and colleges. Every year we receive 550 to 750 applications from Ukrainians ready to apply to such institutions as Yale College and work hard to obtain the world’s best education. So, there are at least 550 to 750 potential Ukrainian applicants to Yale every year, constituting 2 percent of total applications to Yale College. Yet, Ukrainians constitute only 0.02 percent of Yale undergraduates.

Most of the time, it is a fear of a rejection letter that prevents these Ukrainian high school students from actually applying. This fear is especially strong among high school students from war-torn countries because few Yale students come from those states. Without a personal connection to students at such universities as Yale, admittance to these institutions may seem exclusive for the upper classes from developed countries.

Yale should launch a positive feedback loop of ordinary children from Ukraine and other war-ravaged countries who can observe their friends entering top U.S. universities and then believe they could get in too. As a pioneer institution, Yale should take a proactive role and aid the reconstruction of ravaged regions. By admitting more students from war-torn countries, Yale would help raise the new generation of leaders capable of rebuilding these states into prosperous, democratic countries.

Oleksii Antoniuk is a sophomore in Grace Hopper College.  Contact him at