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Learning from the Best – Super!

Oksana Romaniv, Project Manager from Hnizdychiv United Territorial Community participated with a group of 5 young professionals from Ukraine in a US sponsored program “Open World”.  Open World is a program funded by the US Congress aimed at improving mutual understanding between Ukraine and the US in an exchange of experience in political, business and social life.  This is a competitive process requiring recommendations and invitations to participate.  Oksana and the group had the opportunity to visit the US from September 21-29, 2018 to gain a better understanding of how US cities work in a decentralized manner and how they grow their regional economic development.  The group started their trip in Washington D.C. and then spent the remainder of their time in Bismarck, ND.



The first 2 days were spent as a part of the combined team of other groups from Ukraine in Washington, DC.

Seminar in James Madison Building

A wonderful presentation and dialogue occurred with with Ambassador John O’Keefe, Mr. Mark B. Harkinson, Fellow Georgetown University Public Administration, and Ms.Tara Palacios, Managing Director of BizLaunch. I am sincerely grateful for the meeting and shared information.

Another interesting meeting took place at the Hart Senate House with Mr. Matt Squeri, Military Liaison to Ms. Heidi Heitkamp, the Junior US Senator of North Dakota.

Washington is striking with its simplicity and majesty of respect for its history. From the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial – modern museums with free entrance to all comers. Here’s a photo tour of Washington.

September 21-29 Bismarck, North Dakota

Bismarck is the capital of North Dakota. The city is located in the central part of the state, bordered on the west by the Missouri River. Bismarck is an economically diverse, fast-growing and dynamic community. According to statistics, the territory of Bismarck-Mandan in 2016 amounts to 125,296 inhabitants, of which 71 percent live within the city of Bismarck..


Museum of American Heritage!

Eight days in Bismarck were filled with meetings and conversations with officials, employees of development organizations, educational institutions, business representatives, and, of course, with ordinary residents in whose families we lived.



-Official meeting in Bismarck:

Bismarck’s Mayor, Steve Bakken, owned a consulting firm and was former director of business development at Larson Engineering in Bismarck. He is an open and very interesting person.


When he came to the post of mayor, he continued to run his business while also working as mayor on a part-time basis. As Mayor he is also the head of the City Commission together is only 5 people, all working part-time as a legislative body.


Mayor/Head of City Commission leads the executive branch of the city government, it also includes: the city manager, who coordinates the work of the city services, and 11 heads of city institutions, which in turn manage 25 departments. The commission, headed by the mayor, meets once every two weeks (I told them in order to occupy the post of first deputy in Ukraine, I had to close my business and leave my role as Executive Director of Oberig Hnizdychiv NGO, they were surprised.).



The State Capitol is the state’s center of government, and its Senator Dever is chairman of the Government and Veterans Affairs Committee, and also works at the Human Services Committee. The Senator took us on an interesting tour while talking with us.

The Senate consists of two chambers – the lower and upper, which sit in separate halls. Sessions of the Senate are held once a year from 3 January to mid-April. In the Senate of the Lower House 94 senators work. The upper chamber consists of 47 senators.

During the meeting with the CEO of the Bismarck-Mandan Economic Development Association, Brian Ritter, we learned about its priorities and activities in five main areas:


– development of new entrepreneurship, expansion of existing entrepreneurship,


– involvement of business to meet the main goals of the region’s economy,


– creation of conditions for increasing employment in the region,


– attraction of the best talent to fill the open employment roles.


The Association also develops and submits to the Government for approval, laws that will promote the development of entrepreneurship.





We also visited Bismarck Century High School, which has 1300 pupils in grades 9-12. Each subject has a different classroom and the students move to each room. For creative development – a music room and a space for a theater. Cafes and shops for convenience of students and staff are also on site.  These are not only there for convenience but also as a place for students to work and learn business and students are graded on their work. The place of development and support of good form, health, and for the last. There is a separate gym for physical education and health. The school has won nine sports victories in the past year alone. Impressive! There is even parking for teachers and students (approximately 700 parking spaces) on site. I really want a similar school in Hnizdychiv.

Local television followed all our events and noted our small delegation. Now North Dakota knows more about Ukraine.

We next visited the North Dakota Department of Commerce headed by Director John Schneider. During the meeting, he said that the economy of North Dakota focused on manufacturing, energy, agriculture, IT, and aerospace. Particular attention has been paid to tourism. There are “working vacations” in which tourists live and work on ranches as part of their vacation.

Standing Rock

We had the opportunity to visit the The Standing Rock Sioux Reservation (settlement of Native Americans to preserve their ethnic identity, language and culture from extinction and assimilation) Standing Rock (the Tribe counts 16,000 people total). Currently, there are 6,700 people living in the Reservation. The reservation is actually located in both North and South Dakota, the area is 9,251.2 square kilometers. The reservation includes 5 tribes and was established in 1873. According to the constitution, the governing body of the reservation is the Council of tribes, consisting of 17 members. In addition to the general state taxes on reservation, the sales tax and property tax are levied, which replenish the local budget.


While visiting the Visitor Center, Ladonna Brave Bull (Brave Buffalo) told many interesting stories about the history of the tribe. It is important that Native Americans are now working to revive their language, culture, and determine their own process of development. There was a Ukrainian woman, Juliet, who is the director of a school where children and parents communicate exclusively in the language of the tribe, as well as attend a college for Native Americans. During the meetings, we learned a lot of interesting facts about the tribes, for example: during their life they will change their name several times, the oldest child of the family is brought up by a grandmother. Indeed, every nation has its own customs.




The Idea Center is one of four certified entrepreneurial centers in North Dakota as an incubator for entrepreneurial development. The Center provides specialized services and guidance to inventors and business owners of products, and helps them find economic solutions for research and development, from designing a product prototype to producing products from idea to market.


Our delegation was struck by an event held every Wednesday “1 Million Cups of Coffee.” This is a gathering of business people who listen to an idea of just one business and work together to determine how the entire community can support this business. The sponsor of this weekly event is a coffee company, and the room is provided free of charge.





Located in Bismarck, it is a cooperative educational community that serves students from 75 different nation tribes. UTC offers 22 junior specialist programs, three bachelor’s programs, six online programs, an online certificate program that trains students in a wide range of career paths. Their Amazon Art Program (AAM) encourages and helps artists to develop their skills required for employment or self-employment in graphic arts, media art and / or fine arts. The work on this subject reflects UTTC’s desire to preserve traditional indigenous art while at the same time applying modern technology. If you want to become an artist, artisan or graphic artist or a media artist, students will be introduced to a variety of traditional and contemporary forms of art with an emphasis on developing their own individual style. During the study of the discipline, professional presentations and marketing strategies are considered and emphasized. The aim of the faculty is to give graduates a competitive edge in finding a job or presenting themselves and their work to potential clients and galleries. A wide range of opportunities awaits qualified graduates as entry-level specialists in the field of fine arts, galleries, illustrations, graphic design, 2 and 3D, animation, film and video editing, tribal museums, as well as the management and operation of their own business. Faculty of Arts / Arts and Marketing and The UTTC have a cooperative agreement with the Institute of Indian Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where students may transfer to a four-year training program.


P.S. Thank you ms. Pat Aune, who organized this meeting for us where she was once the President of the college, and the staff – for a delicious lunch, I found out that there are yellow beets.


The Federal Government Building

We met with US Senator John Hoeven, US Senator Heidi Heitkamp, ​​and US Congressman Kevin Kramer. The main mission of the senators’ office, which employs only 4 people, is to provide communication between senators and voters. Every Monday there are online meetings of senators to share the concerns of the voters.

We also requested that senators continue to support the funding of the Open World program so that more of our young Ukrainians can visit the United States and gain experience.



The meeting was held with Director Blake Crosby, Assistant Director Stephanie Dassinger and Senator Rich Wardner. The public organization has 4 employees.


Bank of North Dakota

The Bank, together with most North Dakota financial institutions, is implementing its mission of promoting agriculture, trade and industry in North Dakota.

The bank has 182 employees. In 2017 the bank concluded 6,455 commercial deals with other banks, 360 agreements with agricultural producers, 604 agreements for the provision of real estate loans and 22,144 student loans.


The University of Mary is a private Catholic University offering 52 undergraduate programs, 8 master’s programs and one doctorate program. The University has over 3,000 students located in North Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, Missouri, Kansas, Arizona, and Rome (Italy). The University also offers courses online.

We met with colleagues, students, attended classes, among which are the class “Cultural Diversity” and “Human Relations”. Where I gave a presentation about our community and answered questions from students. They were surprised that studies at a music school cost $10 a month.

There was also a friendly gathering to “exchange traditions”, a mini-ethno-festival with Ukrainian songs, an American style birthday, and a gourmet party on which, without Ukrainian varenyky and borscht there wouldn’t be a party!




My  HostFamily:       Wanda and Elvin Agnew

They were generous, intelligent, kind, cheerful, and hardworking, I’m waiting for you in Ukraine!


Many thanks to those who nominated me for this program: Patrice Stankavich, Oksana Tabacey, Roman Oleksenko, and the program organizers in Kyiv. Thanks for the booklets developed by Vitaliy Mikitkin and the translation by Patrice, with which I had the opportunity at each meeting to talk about Ukraine and our community. Friends old and new – thank you! for the opportunity to learn, for warmth and understanding,  I am waiting for your visit.

P.S. To translator Tatiana (dumplings – they were super!) and also our unsurpassed Michael Richardson – the best organizer- THANK YOU !!!

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