Three sisters share in accomplishments
July 1, 2009
For the first time in Corban College’s history, three sisters graduated together from the Adult Degree Program (ADP). They are the first in their large family to acquire bachelor’s degrees.
According to Nancy Martyn, dean of the program, “We have had couples and mother/daughter graduates, but never three sisters.”
If they were local ladies, this might not be so unusual, but these three—Oksana Vityukova, 37, Tatyana Sukhodolov, 32, and Natalya Ishenin, 30—are Ukrainians, who came to this country with their family in 1992.
Because they are Christians, moving to the U.S. would allow them to practice their faith without persecution. “Like many other Christians, our parents were limited in choices they could make about numerous things, including education and jobs,” Tatyana said.
In 1992, Tatyana and Natalya attended McKay High School in Salem, Tatyana graduating in 1995 and Natalya in 1996. Because Oksana is older, she had already finished high school in Ukraine.
“We knew a little English when we arrived, but it was British English,” Natalya said. For the younger two, life in an American school and learning English was much less difficult because McKay had many Russian-speaking students at the time. For Oksana, on the other hand, grasping the language was not as easy.
Today, 17 years later, Tatyana and Natasha speak English clearly and with little hint of a Russian accent.
The three have five older brothers, all of whom live in Salem except for one in the Portland area. Their parents live in Albany. The whole family considers education important, as evidenced by the fact that the parents, as well as the brothers, have all done college work; one brother is currently attending OSU. The sisters’ parents, Vladimir and Vera Vityukov, are proud of their daughters. “We are very pleased that all our daughters decided to enhance their knowledge of God by going to college,” Vladimir Vityukov said.
The ladies’ advanced studies began at Chemeketa, where Tatyana and Natasha majored in office administration, while Oksana prepared to be an administrative assistant and accountant. Tatyana finished at Chemeketa in 1997; Natasha in 1998; and Oksana in 2007.
But an associate degree was not sufficient for these three. While working at the Chemeketa Center for Business and Industry, Tatyana met Linda Merritt, a co-worker whose husband Bruce is a professor in Corban’s ADP program.
Linda Merritt is happy to take credit for the sisters’ decision to attend Corban. “Tatyana had been talking for some time about wanting to finish her degree. She knew my husband worked at Corban and that it was a Christian college,” she said.
Tatyana liked the idea that she wouldn’t have to travel far and it would take only one night a week. “From there,” Linda added, “she must have talked to her sisters, and they were on their way!”
In fact, Oksana was easily convinced to sign up for Corban’s program, “because by that time I was done with my studies at Chemeketa, and I didn’t have any work-related commitments.”
Natalya, on the other hand, wasn’t ready because of family and other commitments. But, when she learned she was to be laid off from her job, she decided she was ready. “God, of course, all along had Corban’s Adult Degree Program in my path,” Natalya said, “but it took me being laid off to steer me in that direction.”
Grants and loans helped them cover the expenses, but the cost was “definitely worth it,” Tatyana said.
All three praised the quality of their instructors. Natalya also noted the teaching about a biblical worldview was especially encouraging and helpful. Tatyana liked the small classes, meeting only once a week, and an easy-to-follow format. Being able to “talk about your beliefs” was another positive for her. Oksana liked the fact that both of her sisters were in the same program, which made the process so much easier and fun.
Bruce Merritt has great admiration for the sisters’ determination. “All of our students have busy lives,” he said, “but few have to deal with the rigors of having a baby and caring for it through the first few weeks of life while they are in school. Tatyana and Natalya did this during the course of their program. Add to this, the challenges of taking advanced courses in a second language and holding down full-time employment, and you get a sense of how much these women wanted to become Corban graduates.”
Oksana is a single mother, whose daughter Mary Anna is 16. Tatyana is married to Paul, 32, and their children are Nikita, 3½, and Evelina, 9 months. Natalya’s husband is Sergey, 25, and their children are Sasha, 3½, Yulia, 2, and Ruvim, 6 months.
Interestingly, Tatyana and Natasha had a double wedding, Oct. 16, 2004, at the Slavic Christian Church. “Ukrainian/Russian weddings last a long time,” Natalya said. “It is a big family celebration!”
The family definitely had plans to celebrate after the sisters’ graduation in May. Tatyana had said their destination was Sunriver, where they would all take time to thank God for “what He has done in our lives.
By Ellen Kersey, Adjunct Instructor of English and Journalism Advisor
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