Vitaliy Shmeriga ’94
U.S. City and State: Whitefish, Montana
Email address: vshmeriga [at] gmail [dot] com
Education (university, degrees, major, area of specialization): University of Colorado at Denver, USA, Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice, Administration of Criminal Justice; Odessa Law Institute, Ukraine, Law Degree, Civil Law and Process; Odessa Institute of Internal Affairs, Ukraine, Law Degree, Criminal Law and Process.
Current places of work and titles: Professor of the Theory of State and Law Department, Odessa University of Internal Affairs, Ukraine (part time); Procurement Manager of the Odessa Project Management Unit, Urban Infrastructure Project of the World Bank (full time)
Highlights of your current work on the World Bank Project (achievements, new insights, challenges etc): As a Procurement Manager I am responsible for handling all procurement and legal issues of the 45 million USD loan to Odessa from the World Bank. This is a totally new and challenging job for me. I started to work for this project in 2007 and hopefully this year will be the last, since all bidding procedures are completed, all contracts are signed and all construction works are underway. We will be constructing two new major pumping stations in the Southern District of Odessa, laying a GRP pipe and reconstructing the deep sewer collector. This will solve all the ecological and sewage problems in the southern area of my hometown, so the sea water and the beaches in Odessa should be much cleaner starting next year.
Teaching experience: what do you teach, what do you give/gain from this activity, and what drives you combine your university work with the municipal government work?
I teach Roman Law, Introduction to Law and History of Political and Legal Studies. I used to teach Constitutional Law and International Law as well. I mostly work with the first year students and I always teach them how important young and honest lawyers are to this country. All students love to hear what I have to say about my American experience, because I worked as a Court Clerk and Assistant to Collections Investigator at the Denver District Court. I also had an internship with the Virginia House of Delegates and I travelled around the US for quite a while. So, I can share quite a lot of information.
I had to quit my full time Professor’s position for financial reasons, because it’s hard to make a decent living teaching honestly. This is how I started to work for the City Council and became a member of the group which handles the World Bank’s project in Odessa. Since I love my hometown very much, I decided that it would be better for me to combine both jobs simultaneously and I am happy that my Director allows me to do so.
By teaching and practicing law I am increasing my personal positive impact and trying to make the world around me just a little bit better.
The FLEX Program is important because: It brings a lot of positive changes to the former USSR republics and allows Americans to explore our culture, our values and beliefs. I think it’s one of the smartest and rewarding investments into our common feature the US Government can make. They are not profitable in terms of income and financial surplus, but they bring some many positive changes to this world that the importance of FLEX and other professional exchange programs offered by the US Government is out of the question.
A volunteer/community service activity in which I take part: Due to the lack of free time I mostly volunteer for my local community in the form of pro bono legal services to the residents of my neighborhood. Typically, there is always someone who needs legal advice and assistance, so people turn to me for initial consultation or preparation of the formal complaint / information request. In June 2012, for example, I prepared the formal complaint against air pollution in Odessa and organized its signing along with the other members of the local community. There are several oil refining companies in Odessa, which serve as the major air pollution sources and are located right next to the downtown and recreational areas. The petition was signed by over a thousand of local residents and we took it to all state agencies, including the President and Cabinet of Ministers. As a result, the oil refining companies were fined and obliged to perform modernization of their infrastructure in accordance with the time schedule.
Right now I’m reading “Why Did Georgia Succeed” by Larisa Burakova. I would definitely recommend it to all alumni.
My favorite place in the U.S. is: It’s the country itself. I love New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco because there is a large community of immigrants from Odessa. These cities remind me of my hometown and I miss them a lot. I lived in Montana, Colorado and Virginia and I adore these states and the people who live there. Southern hospitality of Virginia, tolerant and vibrant life of Colorado combined with the nature and beauty of Montana are the best experience one can get in the US.
However, if I were to choose only one location, I would opt for the road and Route 66.
What I miss most about the U.S.: Government of the people, by the people, for the people.I miss law and order which gives you the protection and security you need to live and succeed in a democratic country.
What I’d like to say to fellow FLEX alumni: Life is too short, so don’t waste your time when you are young. Travel as much as you can, learn as much as you can and try to change the world around you for the better as much as you can.