Surzhko-Harned is recipient of Emerging Faculty Award for Engaged Scholarship

Lena Surzhko-Harned

Lena Surzhko-Harned

Credit: Photo provided

ERIE, Pa. — Lena Surzhko-Harned, associate teaching professor of political science and associate director of the Public Policy Initiative (PPI) at Penn State Behrend, has received the 2024 Outreach and Online Education Emerging Faculty Award for Engaged Scholarship.

The Emerging Faculty Outreach Award is a University-wide honor that recognizes early-career tenure-track and non-tenure-track faculty members whose work has significant potential to advance engaged scholarship through teaching, research and/or service. Their engaged scholarship work shows significant potential to influence societal issues on local, regional or national levels.

Nominators said Surzhko-Harned’s teaching, research and service focuses on public scholarship and the education of the community on pressing political and policy issues that affect their lives. She’s an expert on transitional societies, democracy and democratization and uses that knowledge — and her life experiences — to bring political science alive in the classroom and the community.

She is frequently tapped to explain political events — from local to global — to a diverse audience through invited talks, media interviews and in publications for the Conversation, a nonprofit, independent news organization that features experts in academia. She has been featured in U.S. News & World Report, International Policy Digest, Global Economic Intersection, and National Public Radio.

A native of Ukraine, Surzhko-Harned is a preeminent expert in European politics, specifically European integration and the politics affecting the Ukraine and other post-Soviet states. Her recent work on the conflict netted 9,713 reads on the Conversation’s website and 2.3 million media impressions from publications in Yahoo and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

In Erie, Surzhko-Harned is a contributor and consultant to the Jefferson Educational Society, a nonprofit institution that promotes study, research and discussion to promote civic enlightenment and community progress.

One nominator called her talks there thoughtful, enlightening and inspiring.

“Whether it is making sense of the news of the day when offering a series that examines Russia’s war in Ukraine, unpacking the lead-up to and implications of Brexit, or offering insights into national U.S. elections, I can always trust Dr. Surzhko-Harned to come prepared, offer world-class insights and engage our audience,” a nominator said.

At PPI, which nominators said was created to bring together a diversity of perspectives to inform public policy decisions that affect the Erie region, Surzhko-Harned is a frequent voice. She’s also responsible for bringing diverse others to the table.

Surzhko-Harned said education and politics go hand in hand because one is constantly informing, changing and shaping the other.

“Everything is political. As a teacher and a researcher, I’ve endeavored to build bridges between scholarship and public — locally, nationally and internationally — to inform, educate and enrich,” Surzhko-Harned said. “In the current world of social media, information silos, and amidst the deliberate misinformation, I have focused my attention on providing informed and measured analysis to all who might benefit from any of our programs. To make informed decisions, the policymaker needs data and analysis. Likewise, the public needs explanation of policy and its implications for the same reasons. Both need to be aware of context and broader significance.”