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Environmental science grad combines climate advocacy, filmmaking

Mykhailo Bogdanov set to earn an M.S. from DePaul University

Mykhailo Bogdanov holds a video camera on the quad
Documentary filmmaker Mykhailo Bogdanov loved being in nature while growing up in Ukraine. He will soon hold both a degree in filmmaking and a graduate degree in environmental science from DePaul. (DePaul University/Jeff Carrion)

One in a series of stories about DePaul University’s Class of 2022

Growing up in Ukraine, Mykhailo Bogdanov took every chance to enjoy nature and art. After earning a B.A. in Film and Television from DePaul in 2020, he enrolled in the graduate environmental science program to learn more about conservation.

“Nature taught me to recognize true beauty, respect and love. I want to share this with the world,” Bogdanov says. “Earning an M.S. in environmental science is the next step to fully delve into an understanding of the environment and fuse my passions of film and nature.”

On June 11, Bogdanov will attend the College of Science and Health commencement ceremony to celebrate graduating with a Master of Science in Environmental Science.

Combining passions

A decade ago, Bogdanov immigrated to the United States from Yaltushkiv, Ukraine, his hometown. He says he struggled to acclimate to life here, and he sought ways to tackle climate change through creative narratives. He enrolled in DePaul’s School of Cinematic Arts, where documentary filmmaking faculty member Dana Kupper saw his work in action.

“Mykhailo does what I love to see people do, which is to use their passion for filmmaking to create positive change,” Kupper says. “He commits himself to the hard work it takes to produce films like ‘Avoesis,’ Vatna Glacier’ and ‘What God Wants.’ ”

Bogdanov’s films have won more than a dozen awards, including best film from the James Alan Cox Foundation in 2021 and best religious or spiritual film at the Erie International Film Festival. Many of his films explore themes of faith.

“Faith is an outlet to a spirituality, which encourages me to be comfortable with questions rather than answers,” Bogdanov says.

As a graduate student, he also held a job as a digital content producer within the College of Science and Health, practicing skills for his future career. The promotional video he created for the program features staff and shows why DePaul’s urban environment is the perfect place to study nature. Bogdanov subsequently advanced in the role, working for the dean’s office and garnering attention from faculty.

“Uniting scientific, aesthetic and narrative skills is an urgent thing in the world. Combining these ingredients into compelling projects requires a unique touch, one that Mykhailo has,” says Liam Heneghan, professor of environmental science.

Bogdanov says Kupper, Heneghan and other DePaul faculty provided him with a strong support system and a practical curriculum rooted in service-based, hands-on learning. “In the coming years, my goal is to tell visual stories about the climate crisis and the many other environmental problems we face today,” Bogdanov says.

Bogdanov carries DePaul’s Vincentian mission into his personal life, volunteering for organizations including the Sunrise Movement, which addresses climate issues. In 2021, he completed the Chicago Marathon while raising support for the Chicago Parks Foundation’s conservancy efforts.

Ukrainian background

Being in the United States has only strengthened Bogdanov’s Ukrainian identity and pride. Now, as Russian attacks on Ukraine devastate his home country, Bogdanov worries about his family and other Ukrainians but notes the support he’s received.

“The warmth of people here in Chicago and beyond for the Ukrainian cause is unbelievably strong,” Bogdanov says. “People like my parents are still in Ukraine, and the war is still happening, unfortunately.”

Outside of work and school, Bogdanov video-chats with his parents and kin in Ukraine whenever possible. His family, including his Chicago-based wife and 10-month-old child, are his biggest supporters.

“Having a son now, it can be very devastating to think about our current climate situation,” Bogdanov says. “I’m hopeful my work can help lead the change we desperately need.”

Bogdanov will celebrate commencement with his wife and son. His family in Ukraine expects to watch via webcast. He plans to decorate his regalia with Ukrainian flags to support his family and other Ukrainians.

Konner Gross is a student intern in University Marketing and Communications.