JWU Community Rallies for Ukraine

“We’re all one JWU” has special meaning when the Wildcat community comes together on three campuses in two states to support a country that just one JWU student calls home.

The lives of millions of Ukrainians had changed forever when Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, attacking several key cities with missiles immediately followed by a multi-directional ground invasion. The resulting war has created Europe’s largest refugee crisis since World War II, with more than a third of Ukraine’s population displaced in the wake of thousands of civilians killed and entire cities destroyed.

Khrystyna Voloshyn '23 M.S., a graduate student in JWU’s Data Analytics program, shared her story with a Boston Globe reporter during the spring semester. The article had captured how a Rhode Island surgeon checking on Voloshyn after a medical procedure found her sobbing with worry over her family back home near Lviv, Ukraine and offered to pray with her for her country and its people — and how Voloshyn, remembering the kindness of the American doctor, “looked to her campus of students to encourage them to take action.”

Voloshyn approached JWU’s Student Government Association (SGA) about routing a petition in support of a “no-fly zone,” which in turn sparked an effort by both SGA and Student Engagement to find an active way to help the people of Ukraine. Soon, many more Wildcats would become involved.

A Culinary Connection between JWU and Ukraine

“I thought of how we’re connected to Chef Andrés and asked myself, ‘Why aren’t we doing something?’” - Associate Professor Marcia Vinci

Meanwhile, in Charlotte, Associate Professor of Business Marcia Vinci, watching an early-morning news report on Ukraine, caught an interview with a familiar face: Chef Jose Andrés, founder of World Central Kitchen. Andrés has visited JWU’s Charlotte Campus and has relationships with several JWU culinary faculty members. “I thought of how we’re connected to Chef Andrés and asked myself, ‘Why aren’t we doing something?’” recalls Vinci.

She reached out to fellow JWU employees, and her request ultimately reached JWU Providence Campus President Maria Bernardo-Sousa, who, inspired by Voloshyn’s student activism, was already pulling together a meeting for JWU to join forces across both campuses. Vinci was quickly included in Sousa’s team. Everyone liked the idea of directing proceeds from both campuses to World Central Kitchen to help feed war refugees, in addition to any other ways that JWU could help, and it was settled that JWU would hold two Blue and Gold Days at the end of March for fundraising initiatives by students and volunteers.

one of the Blue and Gold Days posters that hung around JWU’s Providence Campus


Vinci was impressed with everyone who stepped up. “On the Providence Campus, Dean of the College of Food Innovation & Technology (CFIT) Jason Evans, Associate Dean of Students Mel Graf, and Associate Director of Student Engagement Sandy Cardoza were all so instrumental in promoting efforts,” she says, “Here on the Charlotte Campus, College of Business Chair James Woods and CFIT Associate Dean Jerry Lanuzza jumped right into gear to help." Even JWU Charlotte Director of Student Engagement Crystal Hutson dedicated time helping, Vinci notes, exclaiming, “And she was brand-new in her position!”

From Flour to Flowers

At JWU’s Harborside campus in Providence, CFIT’s bake sale is a popular attraction each Thursday during the fall and spring semesters, when students and the JWU community can enjoy both sweet and savory treats prepared by culinary students and sold at cost. “It was a natural for the bake sale to be part of the efforts to help Ukraine,” says Evans. When word spread that 100% of profits from the March 31 bake sale in the CCCE building would be donated to helping the people of Ukraine, the line of customers stretched out and around the building.

Evans, too, noted JWU’s connection with Chef Andrés, a world-class culinary artist well known for engaging in philanthropic efforts. “Many of our chefs know him or have met him, and we felt it was highly relevant for JWU to participate in something related to food relief given our identity and presence in the food world. World Central Kitchen does important work around the globe. Being a food professional can change how we both eat and access food.”

“World Central Kitchen does important work around the globe. Being a food professional can change how we both eat and access food.” - CFIT Dean Jason Evans

In addition to the bake sale, Evans credits JWU students and employees for stepping up in many other ways. During two JWU Blue and Gold Days held at the end of March, JWU’s Student Engagement office encouraged student organizations to hold their own fundraisers and encouraged students to stop by either their office or the Wildcat Lounge to make a monetary donation that would be included in JWU’s overall gift to World Central Kitchen. Evans had been happy to see students from the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) set up in the atrium during CFIT’s bake sale, taking advantage of foot traffic to further engage students and community members in fundraising.

SAAC member Jordan Restivo '22 sets up a table to fundraise for Ukraine


During Charlotte Campus preparations for Blue and Gold Days, Vinci and members of the Accounting Society decided to make blue and yellow bracelets to sell to raise funds for Ukraine while elevating the plight of its people through the colors of its country’s flag (which just happen to match JWU’s own colors). The group struggled amid supply issues to obtain the right string, but in the end CFIT Associate Professor Robin Stybe kindly donated her time and skills to making the first batch of bracelets, and the group was soon able to produce more of them. “They came out really nice,” Vinci says. “People really loved them — and if they didn’t, then they were being very generous in purchasing them anyway for a good cause!”

members of the JWU Charlotte Accounting Society sell items to fundraise for Ukraine


In addition, Vinci and the Charlotte Campus team purchased boxes of artificial sunflowers to sell to raise additional funds for Ukraine. Hoping they would find some interest between the bracelets and the sunflowers, the volunteers set up their table.

A Team Effort Pays Off

Blue and Gold Day was a success in Charlotte, as students, faculty and staff not only purchased items from the table for Ukraine but also made monetary donations through student groups. Between donations collected by student organizations such as the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), the JWU Charlotte Student Alumni Association (SAA) and the Fraternity and Sorority Life (FSL), as well as proceeds from both a Delta Phi Epsilon bake sale and the Accounting Society’s bracelet and flower sale, the Charlotte Campus raised $1,842 to help the people of Ukraine.

More than 800 miles away, the JWU Providence community was also working together for Ukraine. Many people were involved, but in particular Graf credits Cardoza with being critical in JWU’s efforts to organize marketing and social media efforts to spread the word about fundraising for Ukraine. “She also handled all funds and physically sent the donation to the nonprofit organization,” Graf reports.

Cardoza, meanwhile, credits the SAAC for spearheading student fundraising efforts on the Harborside Campus, while students from BRIDGE worked with the Student Engagement office on efforts on JWU’s Downcity Campus. Cardoza was particularly impressed that the SGA offered to match everything raised by other student organizations as well. “And we had blue and yellow ribbons and a sticker that we were giving out in honor of Blue and Gold Day,” she adds. “It was great so see so many people wearing stickers or ribbons in solidarity!”

Between the funds raised through SAAC tabling at Harborside, the Student Engagement-managed tabling at Downcity and Student Activists Supporting Sustainability (SASS) donations that were all matched by the SGA, students and employees raised $702.04. That amount was added to the $1,000 raised by the CFIT bake sale. In all, JWU collected $3,544.04 for World Central Kitchen — but the Wildcat community had more to offer the people of Ukraine beyond those funds.

Putting Classwork into Action

Social responsibility is nothing new to several JWU programs, including to courses in the Culinary Arts Bachelors of Science degree. In the past, CFIT Associate Professor Jeremy Houghton’s classes have organized donations to causes such as the Rhode Island Food Bank and the SPCA. This year, after seeing the news articles about Ukraine’s refugees, Houghton wanted to help.

He showed his class an article about a recently retired Warwick, Rhode Island police officer who was leading a stuffed-animal drive for the children of Ukraine. "The students and I agreed that students might not be able to afford to donate cash or purchase stuffed animals, but they did have clothes they might not wish to take home over summer break." Houghton contacted a nonprofit called Hope for Ukraine, which stated its need for clothing. "All of the classes agreed to include this as their social responsibility component, and it took off from there."

“I saw it as a great opportunity for a partnership to aid the citizens of Ukraine and to also show the JWU community what an actual restaurant concept could do to supply aid and help the ones in need.”
- Joseph Castellano '22

For two weeks during the spring semester, students and guests of students were able to dine at Houghton’s classes’ pop-up meal experiences if they brought gently-used items to donate, while signage was used in all culinary classes to advertising the collection of clothing. Outside of the classrooms and kitchens, Houghton credits students for spreading the word, particularly Joseph Castellano ’22 for mobilizing members of his fraternity, Theta Delta Chi, to help collect clothes. JWU students all around campus were seeing flyers and posters showing how they could help Ukraine. "Once the word got out, the donations far exceeded our expectations of the Wildcat community," Houghton says.

Castellano '22 was still weeks away from graduating with his Culinary Arts degree at the time, but he had already learned during his studies at JWU that running a restaurant of any caliber meant having a strong relationship with your community, and he had been involved in multiple community service opportunities, including annual philanthropy events his fraternity, Theta Delta Chi, hosts to raise money in support of the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism. Castellano, like others in the JWU community, had been moved by the destruction in Ukraine shown on the news and wanted to help those in need, so he didn’t think twice when approached by Houghton asking if Castellano could involve members of Theta Delta Chi as well.

“I saw it as a great opportunity for a partnership to aid the citizens of Ukraine and to also show the JWU community what an actual restaurant concept could do to supply aid and help the ones in need,” Castellano says of how the opportunity provided a first-ever collaboration with an on-campus fraternity and the Culinary Arts department. “We were all so glad to aid in these efforts.” During the spring semester, Theta Delta Chi hosted collections at the Cintas Dining room as well as the John J. Bowen Center on the Downcity Campus.

In addition to the other ways the fundraising for Ukraine was promoted by CFIT, Castellano was able to inform other aspects such as the Fraternity Sorority Leadership Team (FSLT), Panhellenic Council and Interfraternity Council (IFC) as well as members of the JWU Involvement Network. “Chef Houghton and I, between his connection and mine, were able to bring all aspects of the campus together to aid in this effort,” Castellano reports.

A Clothing Drive, and a Drive to Deliver

In all, more than 1,000 pounds of gently-used clothes from the JWU community was collected, as well as some diapers and toys. With the assistance of Theta Delta Chi members, Houghton and Culinary Nutrition student Victoria Gayles ’24 loaded all of the donations into a JWU van.

“There was a lot of tragedy happening in Ukraine, leaving many families without homes or clothing,” Gayles says to explain why she helped drive a van for hours. Gayles, who also works in JWU Culinary Operations, is no stranger to community service at JWU, having participated in Wildcat Rescue to collect uneaten food from culinary labs to be packaged and labeled for distribution to students with food insecurities.



Once loaded, Gayles and Houghton drove the van of goods to Roseland, New Jersey, where Hope for Ukraine was located. As soon as they delivered the donations the items were loaded onto a cargo plane heading to Ukraine. Gayles found the large amount of donated items heartwarming.

"I am grateful to be a part of the JWU not only as a student but as a staff member because by giving back to the community, it teaches us to help one another and to be a role model for others." - Victoria Gayles '24

“This experience has made me appreciate life more because we never know when a tragedy may come upon us, and being able to provide and help others in need is very rewarding for me,” she says. “I am grateful to be a part of the JWU not only as a student but as a staff member because by giving back to the community, it teaches us to help one another and to be a role model for others.”

“Social responsibility is everyone’s responsibility,” says Houghton of the clothing drive and delivery. “Our student body might not have the means to donate money, but they did what they could – and I couldn’t be prouder!”

Gayles echoes Houghton’s sentiment. “This opportunity taught me a life lesson, which was that one small difference can make a big impact not only for yourself but for the people around you,” she says.

What’s Next in JWU Efforts for Ukraine?

Unfortunately, Ukraine’s humanitarian crisis is not over, with the war with Russia now in its sixth month. Some Ukrainians are being forced to return home, often to damaged or leveled buildings, a lack of utilities and danger of military attack because they can’t afford to live in safer places any longer, while others who never had the means or mobility to evacuate at all suffer the daily risk of harm. The need for both refugees who had to flee and people displaced in their homeland has not abated, and the JWU community could still be in a position to help.

Vinci has incorporated discussions about what is happening in Ukraine and other countries in her classes. “Students don’t always think about what goes into an item such as beer, and where that barley comes from, and what could impact its production halfway around the world,” she explains, “But the more they know, the more they want to get involved."

"It was great to see so many of them come out to support Ukraine," Vinci continues. "We’re all one JWU, so let’s bring students together to see the impact of world events and how they can help."

“Social responsibility is everyone's responsibility. Our student body might not have the means to donate money, but they did what they could – and I couldn’t be prouder!”
- Associate Professor Jeremy Houghton

Evans also praises JWU students for wanting to learn more and help others. “It would be great to have another run of Blue and Gold Days as part of the opening fall semester activities when students are back on campus,” he says.

“The beauty of JWU’s aid to Ukraine is that it was a student-driven effort,” says Cardoza after observing the mobilization this past spring. Meanwhile, Graf has already spread the word that if a student or group wants to do something to help in the fall, her office will assist them as best it can. “In Student Engagement, our work is to support student initiatives,” says Graf. “So if students with to take the lead and raise this issue again in the coming academic year, we will absolutely support and set them up for success.”

Although he has just graduated, Castellano '22 knows that his recent culinary classmates and fraternity members are among the many JWU students who would continue to help others. “Moving forward, I know the faculty and students involved in any aspects of raising awareness would really enjoy to keep expanding this.”

After years of seeing his students helping others, Houghton agrees. “As the clothing drive for Ukraine was a class initiative, we are hoping that in September future classes will pick up that initiative,” he says. “In every class moving forward, we hope to help any way possible locally, nationally or globally.”

One of the blue and yellow bracelets sold at JWU Charlotte in support of Ukraine


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