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Dr. Lena Surzhko-Harned Speaks at Cornell, Reunites with Mercyhurst Alumna

Published on March 20, 2014 | By Lindsay Cox

Last weekend was a big weekend for the Mercyhurst Lakers at Cornell University. For one, the women’s hockey team earned an exciting victory over the Cornell Big Red LSH1and secured a Frozen Four berth.

For Caitlin Handerhan, a ‘13 political science alumnus currently pursuing graduate studies at Cornell, the weekend also brought a wonderful reunion. Handerhan serves as the Communications Director of the Cornell International Affairs Forum and organized an academic event to address the crisis in Ukraine. One of her first tasks was to invite her Mercyhurst mentor, assistant professor Dr. Lena Surzhko-Harned, to campus to participate in a panel discussion titled “Ukraine, Putin and the New Cold War.” Dr. Surzhko-Harned is an authoritative voice on the ongoing crisis and an expert in Russian and Ukrainian studies.

“I was honored that Dr. Surzhko-Harned accepted the invitation to speak on campus. During my time at Mercyhurst, I had a really special connection to Dr. Surzhko-Harned and she was an excellent mentor to me” said Handerhan. “From working as a research assistant, to co-authoring a conference paper, I learned so much from her, and really feel that her tutelage is the reason I was able to go to Cornell. She is and was such a formative figure in my academic career – to be able to welcome her to Cornell was a really special experience.”

Dr. Surzhko-Harned & Caitlin Handerhan '13

Dr. Surzhko-Harned & Caitlin Handerhan ’13

A Mercer, Penn. Native, Handerhan completed numerous classes with Dr. Surzhko-Harned while studying political science and  international relations at Mercyhurst and also participated in two organizations that Surzhko-Harned oversees – the Model International Organizations team and the Mercyhurst Equality of Women (MEOW) club.Following the successful panel discussion, Handerhan invited Dr. Surzhko-Harned to join a group of Cornell students and faculty to continue discussing the Ukraine situation over dinner.

“When she is presenting, whether it is a classroom lecture or in an auditorium in front of 300 people, as she did at Friday’s event, she has this gift of speaking in a way that engages the audience. Her charisma made her something of a celebrity after the panel, with many in the audience clamoring to speak with her – I was honored to be able to say that I studied under her at Mercyhurst,” Handerhan added.

Handerhan is quick to point to Mercyhurst’s liberal arts tradition and the rigors and personal attention of the political science department as key foundations of her success in Cornell’s interdisciplinary graduate program. When her studies are complete, she will earn a Masters of Public Administration with a concentration in Human Rights and Social Justice.

“A goal of any teacher is to help the students develop and learn the tools they will need to achieve their professional and intellectual goals,” said Dr. Surzhko-Harned. “To see Caitlin thrive as she pursues her Master’s degree is very rewarding.”

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