Meet Scholarship Winner Mariya-Yeva Tsapenko
Thirty-year-old interdisciplinary studies student Mariya-Yeva Tsapenko was awarded a University Without Walls scholarship during the spring semester. Born in Kyiv, Ukraine, she lives in Boston and is pursuing her bachelor's with a degree concentration of sustainability in global business. Although she is not a First Generation student, she is the first generation of her family to study in the United States. Inspired by the farm-to-fork mission of her workplace, Mariya-Yeva went back to school to pursue a career in preservation and sustainability.
Every adult student has a story. What's your story?
I came to the US when I was very young, and always had a hard time figuring out my place. Without family nearby, I lacked community and financial support. I struggled with various health issues and spent several years after high school trying to regain my health and find stability. In regaining my health, I developed a deep love and connection to the natural world. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I lost my job and started thinking seriously about what I wanted for my future. For years I wanted to complete my degree, but I did not know how I could afford it, or which major fit my unique professional goals. When I came across the UWW program, it was perfect for me, because I could streamline my various interests towards one goal, in an affordable way, all without uprooting my current lifestyle. The decision to return to school is one of the best I’ve ever made. Before, I was working a job to make ends meet. Now, I can study what I am passionate about the most and build a future with a meaningful career. Last fall I returned to UMass full-time, and the finish line to my degree is now within sight. Thank you to UMass UWW for giving me the knowledge and resources to reach for my dreams!
What's your profession?
Currently, I'm focused on studying, but I worked in a restaurant for 3 years before the pandemic. I loved the farm-to-fork ideology of the establishment and the conservation land that inspired it, so I returned to school to pursue a career in nature preservation and sustainability in business.
What does winning this scholarship mean to you?
Above all, winning this scholarship shows me that my university believes in me, and thinks I am a worthy investment, which makes me incredibly proud. This support has given me faith that others will help you when you have the courage to take a difficult path in the right direction.
What is the best part about being a UWW Interdisciplinary Studies student?
I absolutely love the flexibility of the program, and how understanding all of my professors have been to my own unique challenges. I have so much freedom to be who I am, and I don't have to compromise my lifestyle to fit a certain paradigm to be a student. I love connecting with a diverse range of people who have so much wisdom and insight to offer.
My family has always deeply valued education. UWW has provided me with the ability to complete my bachelor's degree in the most affordable and convenient way imaginable while still receiving a quality education. I love hearing my family tell me they are proud, and I am proud to be a UMass Amherst student.
How do you balance work, school, and other responsibilities?
It can be very challenging at times because I have many more responsibilities as an adult than I did when I was 19. However, the UWW style of asynchronous learning has made fitting school into my life extremely convenient because I can pick up my work whenever I have time, as long as I meet my deadlines. Since I don't have to plan around transporting myself to a specific location at specific times, I have much more flexibility to balance other parts of my life.
What are your plans for the future—professionally and personally?
In the future, I would like to be reunited with my family in Ukraine. Other than that, my goal is to ecologically improve as many spaces as I can: in the US, Ukraine, and other parts of the world. I am interested in working for conservation non-profits, or even as a consultant to help businesses develop more sustainable innovations. I could work in government to help implement environmental regulations or even start my own business that collaborates with others who share green values. Whether it's being a project manager for a permaculture movement or working alongside or with the state, I want to start a career in preservation and responsible stewardship of the Earth.
*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the person being featured and do not necessarily reflect those of the University.