Mind the Gap: UMSL College of Education Alumna Determines the Need for a Change
For UMSL Alumna Dr. Polina Kadatska passion for humanitarian issues went far beyond her research work. From witnessing the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Chernobyl catastrophe as a child, through her experience in working with refugees on the Thai-Myanmar border and protecting minorities’ human rights in former Soviet Republics later on in her life, the Ukraine native could not choose a different career path. “Having gone through various hardships myself, I feel an urge to devote my life to addressing the needs of the international humanitarian and development sector and making a difference,” says UMSL Alumna.
It all started when Dr. Kadatska was pursuing her master’s degree in Community and International Development while attending Andrews University. For the first time Polina’s inquisitive mind paused to think about educational standards for humanitarian professionals: as it turned out they did not exist. It did not take her long to determine the topic of her doctoral thesis when joining UMSL and conduct the first-of-a-kind research in that area.
As visionary as she is, Dr. Kadatska decided not to limit herself with only identifying the issue but was determined to bring theory into practice. In August 2018, Polina founded an NGO with the aim to reduce the competency gap in the education of humanitarian workers in the US. “Mind the Gap: Professionalism for the Humanitarian Sector” is intended to partner with higher academic institutions in America that offer various programs in nonprofit management, community and international development to establish industry standards.
There is no secret that America has been the global development leader for almost a century, by advocating for human rights, drawing attention to climate change issues, providing assistance to fragile states and spearheading sustainable initiatives all over the world. This leadership has been possible due to an active support and engagement of various US humanitarian organizations that represent the country on the international arena. Despite this fact, Dr. Kadatska’s pathbreaking research has shown that overall new hire preparedness in the humanitarian sector is below the market need due to the absence of set educational standards. For the US to continue its stewardship in the international development sphere in the future it is critical to start addressing the competency gap now. Setting educational standards is vital to ensure that development professionals are adequately prepared and possess the required skills and competencies to perform their jobs at the highest level.
“The necessity of curriculum standardization is becoming more and more apparent each year,” claims Dr. Kadatska. “The demand for humanitarian and development professionals is growing, but there is still no agreed set of competencies that defines the foundation of humanitarian education and determines the preparedness of new hires for a job in the NGO sector.” Each educational program offers its own curriculum, which makes it difficult for humanitarian organizations to assess the candidates’ preparedness for work in the development field.
Bringing about the change is no easy matter, but challenges have never stopped Dr. Kadatska from pursuing her dreams. Polina’s solid experience in working for multiple international NGOs, as well as US educational programs in international development, have helped her develop a unique expertise in the subject matter and made her a perfect candidate to trigger these changes. With the new chapter in her life as a CEO and Founder of an NGO, Polina is determined to unite like-minded professionals to address the existing need and bring humanitarian and international development programs to a new level.
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