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Utah Valley State College has 15 new graduates with two-year diplomas, but you won't find them hanging around Utah County just yet.

The new graduates reside in Kiev and are the first Ukrainian students to graduate from the college's Kiev program since it was established in 1992."The graduation was an exciting event because it is the first successfully shared academic program in the Ukraine. There are a number of other schools attempting to establish programs, but UVSC is the only one to have graduates," said Ryan Thomas, vice president of student services.

Thomas attended the graduation exercises, the first formal ceremonies any of the students had ever seen since they are not traditional in Ukraine.

UVSC faculty members provided caps and gowns, conducted a processional and gave graduation speeches. Thomas, along with Ian Wilson, dean of UVSC School of Business, awarded the degrees on behalf of the Utah State Board of Regents.

"This has been a day we've been waiting for for two years. It's a wonderful accomplishment for students to complete a new program that involved hearing lectures in English only and getting used to a new teaching style. We are pleased to have this opportunity to open new ideas for these young people," said Wilson.

"These students are now much better prepared to work in a free market economy. This type of training is crucial and unusual in the Ukraine," said Thomas. "We believe this program will make a difference in the transition of this country from a communist economy to a free market economy. The people in the Ukraine are meeting tremendous challenges and the only meaningful answer is education."

While taking the UVSC course, students at Kiev are also enrolled in the College of Hospitality Management. Most speak fluent English, Russian and Ukrainian.

Some graduates are now coming to Orem to finish general education courses to receive an associate of applied science degree.

"Getting an American degree is one of the best things I could do," said Maxim Morozov, who has done just that.

Morozov turned down employment offers from Western companies in Ukraine to come to the United States to work toward bachelor's and master's degrees in business management at UVSC and the University of Utah. When he returns to Ukraine, he hopes to open his own business.

"UVSC is the first American college to offer degrees in the former USSR. Through the program, I've been able to practice my skills, especially in marketing," said Mo-ro-zov.

The combined campuses of UVSC and the Kiev College of Hotel Management have the largest business library in Ukraine, which interests a lot of potential students, he said.

"The graduation ceremony was really fun. I was shocked to wear a cap and gown and hear speeches. I've never seen that before," he said.