Vilma Fuentes joins LSI as program director of the FSU Ukraine Task Force

Vilma Fuentes, program director of FSU's Ukraine Task Force.
Vilma Fuentes, program director of FSU's Ukraine Task Force.

Florida State University has appointed a seasoned academic administrator who specializes in international education to head its Ukraine Task Force.

Vilma Fuentes, the task force’s new program director, is responsible for facilitating connections between Ukrainian universities and FSU faculty as part of the university’s Learning Systems Institute (LSI).

Born and raised in Miami, Fuentes grew up in a multicultural hub that sparked her interest in international affairs at an early age. Her father, a Cuban political refugee, and mother, a Honduran who came to the U.S. to pursue her education, influenced Fuentes’ perception of global connections. The global perspectives she experienced within her family and hometown led to a career in international education.

“I wanted to understand why my father and mother had come to a different country and settled there,” Fuentes said. “I wanted to understand why I was getting neighbors from different parts of the world, so I pursued a master’s in international studies and then a Ph.D. in political science with a focus on international relations and comparative politics.”

Before joining FSU, Fuentes collaborated with LSI on its U.S. Department of State-sponsored Community College Administrator Program (CCAP). Led by former LSI Director Jeffrey Milligan since 2014, CCAP hosts cohorts from around the globe to showcase U.S. community college systems while providing them with insight into administrative aspects and academic opportunities.

CCAP partially takes place at Santa Fe College, where Fuentes was formerly the assistant vice president for Academic Affairs. She was crucial in implementing 15 CCAP projects, two of which hosted Ukrainians. CCAP opened the door to Fuentes’ connection to Ukrainian educators. She served as a Fulbright Specialist in Ukraine and directed a U.S. Embassy grant focused on inclusive education in the country. Through these experiences, she was able to visit the country five times and form relationships with multiple Ukrainian colleges and higher education officials.

When LSI Director Rabieh Razzouk asked Fuentes if she was interested in serving as the program director for the Ukraine Task Force at FSU, she couldn’t resist.

“I just wanted to know that I can make a difference in some way, that I can somehow help my colleagues in Ukraine,” Fuentes said. “It’s work I was already doing at Santa Fe through my role there, but to know that my job now is to connect people with Ukraine and see what projects we can do together and what grants we could pursue is really exciting.”

Vilma Fuentes, program director for FSU's Ukraine Task Force
Prior to joining FSU in January 2024, Fuentes worked at Santa Fe College for 20 years.

Fuentes commends FSU Provost Jim Clark for creating the Ukraine Task Force in 2022 to explore how the university could engage with peer institutions and colleagues in Ukraine to support them through these difficult times.

“I don’t know how many other universities in the United States have that level of commitment, so I was very excited about the possibility of being part of this team to learn more about FSU and its strengths,” Fuentes said.

One of Fuentes’ goals is to create a project that will help pilot some of the first centers for military veterans in Ukraine. FSU is one of the top 30 universities for veterans in the U.S., according to U.S. News and World Report, and takes enormous pride in the high levels of success its student veterans are achieving.

“My dream is to develop a project with multiple Ukrainian colleagues wherein we highlight how we in the United States serve our military veterans and also serve people with disabilities, help them obtain an education, get retrained if necessary, and then help connect them to good viable jobs,” Fuentes said.

Whether Fuentes is meeting with Ukrainian educators, practicing Ukrainian in FSU courses, reading Ukrainian literature, or sitting in on a class about Slavic vampires with Robert Romanchuk, the Pribic Family Associate Professor of Slavic at FSU, she is committed to learning as much as possible about Ukraine and its people to continue assisting their needs.

“LSI is a very large and impressive team with a wealth of experience in education, both domestically and internationally,” Fuentes said. “It’s inspiring to be surrounded by a team that’s this good at what they do, and I’m hoping that I will be able to come in and complement their work and hopefully be supported by them as well.”

For more information about LSI at FSU, visit