Pete Mullowney, a former U.S. Naval Officer and retired Strategic Planner at AAI Corporation, first visited Ukraine in 2011 with UPF President Joe Privott to teach a class in Strategic Planning at UBTS, then located in Boryslav. In 2012, at the invitation of the Ukraine Baptist Union, Pete started to present the same topic twice a year to pastors in various locations throughout Ukraine. His interpreter for those sessions was Slavik Pyzh, who had just returned from the United States with a doctorate degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Today, Dr. Pyzh is the president of UBTS. Pete travels to Ukraine twice a year to teach UBTS students the fundamentals of Strategic Planning – a skill that can help clarify and strengthen the mission, vision, and goals of a local church. Emerging leaders area eager to learn about the topic, as the practice of local planning was suppressed during decades of central government oversight when Ukraine was a member of the Soviet Union.
Here are Pete’s reflections about his teaching trips to UBTS.
When I was traveling with Slavik, every place we went we were received enthusiastically. But the learning environment was inconsistent. The venues generally lacked essentials for learning, the PowerPoint charts I used to teach were poorly translated from English to Ukrainian and lacked cultural sensitivity in some areas. Few pastors had laptops to store my charts, the internet was non-existent in many places, and the roads off main highways were treacherous, especially at night. Despite these challenges, I was amazed to see the pastors express excitement for learning about strategic planning!
On the road, Slavik and I generally met with pastors from Thursday to Saturday, so I could really only teach them about Strategic Planning. When we moved our “traveling road show” to the UBTS building in L’viv in 2014, I had more time and an actual classroom in which to teach. Now I could focus on teaching students how to do Strategic Planning.
And everything changed! While the pastors I had been teaching were interested, the students at UBTS were enthusiastic, committed to learning, and fun to be around! Each person was equipped with a laptop and could download my presentation and exercises. Although the old UBTS building was sparse in amenities, the students, most in their late 20s, had one thing in common: they all wanted to learn how to Plan Strategically. Some of those students traveled 20 hours one-way to attend UBTS. Talk about dedication and commitment!
Having cancelled both of my classes in 2020 due to Covid, on November 15th this year, I taught my first Strategic Planning Course in the new UBTS building. It was an awesome experience! Our classroom was large and fully equipped for teaching and learning. My students started the class on Monday knowing nothing about Strategic Planning. By the end of the week, working in groups of four to five students, they completed Strategic Plans for a fictitious church I assigned each of the groups. It was amazing to see “the light of understanding” turn on in each of the students during the week.
Having taught students in the old, cramped building for six years, and now in the new academic facility, I can say that UBTS continues to attract the best and brightest, most intelligent, committed and, I might add, the happiest students I’ve ever been around. And the numbers of entering freshman, both men and women, continue to grow exponentially! It is a joy to teach there, and I plan to keep returning to UBTS twice a year to teach Strategic Planning to the future leaders of God’s work in Ukraine.