Foreign Policy Expert Creates Immersive Learning Experiences for Queens Students
When teaching Queens University students about contemporary U.S. foreign policy, Adjunct Professor Dmitry Vovchuk begins the semester by explaining the basics of U.S. foreign policy, the various diplomatic tools available to the U.S., and the interagency processes that determine how decisions are made and actions are taken. By the end of the semester, students have a better understanding of international conflict management, have refined their ability to write direct purposeful memos, and are eager to participate in a mock session of the U.S. National Security Council.
Throughout his lessons, Vovchuk shares stories from his time working in government agencies such as the U.S. Department of State and Department of Defense, the National Security Council, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In addition to teaching at Queens, Vovchuk currently serves as a vice president of the Cohen Group, an organization that provides global business consulting services and advice on tactical and strategic opportunities in several markets. It is through his expertise and experiences that he enriches the learning environment for his students.
“I try to use stories to help students understand how events played out during some very tense times in our recent history,” said Vovchuk. “I find that students tend to be more engaged when I am sharing my experiences than if they just read about a particular situation. They tend to be more comfortable raising important questions and stating opinions. Together, we end up having interesting and rich dialogues in the classroom.”
Political science major Amina Begic ‘24 agrees. “I learn something new every week in Professor Vovchuk’s class. His assignments have a clear purpose and his coursework prepares us for potential careers within foreign policy or international affairs,” she said. “The most interesting part of our class is when he shares his real-life, practical experiences about his work in the U.S. and abroad. The course content doesn’t just sit on the slides — he makes it jump off the screen by contextualizing the information.”
Born in the Soviet Union, Vovchuk hails from the city of Odesa, Ukraine. As a child, his family moved to New York City. He later attended Drew University in New Jersey and studied political science and economics. After college, Vovchuk moved to Salt Lake City and Boston and held positions in financial services.
Then, in September 2001, the city that Vovchuk spent his most formative years in was attacked by terrorists.
“9/11 was personal for me. I had taken classes in the World Trade Center while an undergrad at Drew,” he said. “I knew immediately that I wanted to change career paths and enrolled in Georgetown University for my Master of Arts in U.S. national security policy.
During his final year at Georgetown, Vovchuk was accepted into the Presidential Management Fellowship Program, a flagship leadership development program for individuals committed to public service and interested in improving public policies and programs. His work placed him in the heart of U.S. national security, where he contributed to the development and implementation of U.S. foreign policy on NATO, Afghanistan, and Eastern Europe. In 2006, he received the State Department’s Superior Honor Award and in 2008 he received its Meritorious Honor Award for his work with NATO.
“Dmitry’s teaching combines significant knowledge about U.S. foreign policy with extensive experience in the field,” said Margaret Commins,Ph.D., Shelton professor and political science and chair in the department of political science and sociology. “He connects academic concepts with real world experiences, helping students to understand both the ideas and their application. One significant benefit is that students learn to connect their interests to potential professional paths. There is a debate in higher education about whether we should emphasize academic or professional preparation. The reality is that our students need both – and they get both in Dmitry’s class.”
While teaching about the U.S.’ role in foreign policy, Vovchuk understands that these topics can be emotional and personal and is aware that students may have personal connections to ongoing crises overseas.
“There are difficult challenges that do not have easy solutions and may never be solved, but they are important to think through and talk about. Sometimes, these are life and death situations,” said Vovchuk. “And it’s important for students to get exposure to these issues and to learn from the decisions that were made.”
Professionally, Vovchuk has an extensive network of colleagues that have dedicated their lives to public service, one of them being Maria Yovanovitch, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. For Vovchuk, it’s important for students to hear about the different careers and opportunities that are available to them and the importance that these careers have to national security and foreign policy.
Yovanovitch is passionate about maintaining touchpoints with the next generation of global citizens. On November 29, she’ll visit Queens for a student-led discussion and book-signing to share her experiences as a well-respected leader in the U.S. Foreign Service.
“I’m looking forward to Ambassador Yovanovitch’s visit. She is someone I admire deeply and is a dear friend and colleague,” said Vovchuk. “I think the students will really enjoy the conversation and am hopeful some may even be inspired to pursue government service or related work.”
For several years, Vovchuk has been an invaluable resource for students at Queens. He’s mentored and helped them to envision and achieve professional goals and attain internships and jobs in defense and foreign policy fields.
“We are incredibly grateful to have someone like Dmitry at Queens,” said Commins. “We value his talent and deep desire to support young people on their professional journeys.”