Name: Edem Isliamov
Birthplace: Simferopol, Crimean Republic, Ukraine
Place of residence: Chicago
Fun fact about yourself: I have a talking parrot, I mean, really.
Business School program: Duke’s Fuqua Daytime MBA Class of 2023.
Current Professional position: I just finished my master’s degree at the University of Chicago. Previously, I worked as an advisor to the President of Ukraine.
Can you tell us about your background working with refugees and what it has entailed?
I worked on the border with occupied territories in Ukraine, helping people that had lost their documentation with entering the Ukraine mainland from the occupied territories, which Russia now controls. I was also a member of multiple parliamentary committees, which dealt with the problems of political prisoners and internally displaced persons within Ukraine.
What was your motivation behind working in this role?
I am Crimean Tatar, a member of the indigenous people of Crimea. When Russia occupied Ukraine, I had been forced to leave my homeland under criminal persecution against our national minority group. I had to leave Crimea and relocate to Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, where I joined the Ukrainian political struggle to liberate my homeland and help people in the same position as internal refugees.
How does the company you work for contributing to social impact?
I just finished my Master’s Degree at the University of Chicago and do not yet have any company affiliation.
What skills have you used from your MBA in your current role?
I am just about to begin the MBA program at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, and have not yet attended any classes.
Do you believe more B-school graduates can use their knowledge and skills to help refugees?
Yes, I do. I think addressing this problem is crucial for many countries in the world. The key to the solution to this problem is leadership in all spheres. Business school graduates can directly make an impact, changing the way millions of people live worldwide. It is necessary to emphasize that large private corporations fund many international organizations that deal with refugee issues, such as OSCE or Amnesty International. It is important that we not only find money for this problem, but also participate in creating new, effective policy solutions.
How can businesses help NGOs and others in tackling this crisis?
NGOs play a vital role in addressing the refugee crisis, but we often see that the approaches they take are ineffective. The idea is to help NGOs financially and try to contribute to the change ourselves as well. In Europe, for instance, many private banks and investment companies offer their support for refugees and their families in the way of affordable loans and a less bureaucratic approach to credit applications. The refugee crisis should be addressed not only by policymakers, but also by economic institutions and corporations.
What advice would you give other graduates who want to help in this area, whether through community initiatives or a full-time professional position?
I always tell myself that wherever I am, I should do something for my people. These people face persecution and discrimination in their homeland. Many have had to leave their country to protect their families.
Some people find it convenient to donate to special organizations; some want to go further and tackle the problem in a more hands-on approach. I am not in place to give advice, but I would always find a way to raise this issue in any place I work and gather around people who share the same ideas. Sometimes we do not expect that so many people around us would join our struggle, but we start to see it once we begin.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
I see myself working for an investment company or fund that works with venture capitalists. I am looking to find innovative solutions to the pressing issues in the world.