United Nations headquarters in Geneva
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Sept. 16, 2022

Trio of law students puts education to work helping Ukraine

Unique opportunity with UN explores migration challenges, and solutions associated with war

The devastation of war brings myriad humanitarian, economic and legal issues. For three law students, internships with the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration (IOM) mission in Ukraine put them on the front lines of the migration challenges associated with war, and to work on solutions to help those affected by the conflict.   

Jackson Dahlen

Second-year student Jackson Dahlen

“One of the biggest challenges Ukrainians are facing is the approaching winter,” explains third-year student Joel Andersen. “This includes ensuring people have enough coal, safe places to stay with no broken windows or holes in the walls from bombing, and that shelters have proper facilities for health and hygiene purposes.” 

Jackson Dahlen, a second-year student, agrees, adding that the IOM must be strategic about where stabilization and rebuilding projects take place.   

“There are areas in Western Ukraine with minimal conflict and areas in the north that have been taken back by the Ukrainian government. It’s easier to do transition programs in those areas. We don’t want to do a bunch of work in the east for it to be taken back, such as donating laptops to a school system, only to have them taken away by the attacking forces.”  

Fellow third-year student Creighton Garson adds that it’s also imperative to ensure people who have left the country have government support from local or national governments.  

“I was working on a team exploring how laws protect people equally — that Polish people living in Ukraine have the same rights as Ukrainians living in Poland.”  

Remote work didn’t keep them from the realities of war 

While the trio was working remotely during the summer, they could see their work’s effects first-hand. 

Andersen’s boss often travelled on convoy missions to deliver supplies to different areas around the country. While he wasn’t on the mission himself, he could read and hear their stories later and learn how the things the team was doing helped. 

Joel Andersen

Third-year student Joel Andersen

Garson’s work primarily focused on the inner workings of the legislative process. He speaks Ukrainian and Russian and translated many situation reports, legal citation references, and legislation, and was able to experience how legal and justice systems keep running during times of conflict. 

“It was neat to see how the Ukrainian government handles the legislative side of things. It’s a lot more chaotic than the Canadian way, and I’ve learned we have a lot more efficiencies regarding how we write our laws.” 

Dahlen, who would cherish the opportunity to work for the UN or a similar organization after finishing law school, also put his law school experience to work with a risk assessment project that evaluated the likelihood of people committing war crimes or human rights violations, and how to help people get justice for legal violations through criminal justice mechanisms, reparations, or transitional justice. 

Creighton Garson

Third-year student Creighton Garson

War is personal for Garson 

While all three had different reasons for applying for the internship opportunity, it was personal for Garson, who lived in Ukraine and still has family in the area.   

“I have been neck-deep in war-related stuff since the moment it happened. I saw streets blown up where I used to stand every week. I have been helping family members negotiate the visa system, trying to get out. I wasn’t sure what I would do this summer, but I knew I had to do something to help.

"I sent a message to the Career and Professional Development Office at the law school, and Dean Holloway found the opportunity. I knew it would be perfect for me, and I am so grateful that I was able to help my fellow Ukrainians in some way.”