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From the Academic Excellence Conference to Weber State

Johanna DeBari, '14
Johanna DeBari, '14

Senior Johanna DeBari was a freshman with an undeclared major when she decided to enroll in Professor Therese Siebert's sociology course. Although her professor only planned to take seniors on a trip to Rwanda, DeBari convinced her to take her along too.

Not only did she return to Keene State an enlightened student, the experience led her to her life path.

"I want to be an advocate - to end the cycle of violence against women worldwide," said DeBari.

DeBari, now a sociology and Holocaust and genocide studies major with an anthropology minor, spent a month in Rwanda, during which she attended a peace-building institute and met the country's prime minister and ministers of justice and leaders of several non-governmental organizations.

When DeBari returned from her trip to Rwanda, she said she felt hurt. "I fell in love with the people, the place - I needed to do something to still feel connected to it. I thought I could if I wrote a paper about my experience."

She learned that in Rwanda, rape has been used as a strategic and systematic tool of genocide. Her discoveries were the basis of a two-and-a-half month research project she conducted last year that earned her credit for her senior Sociological Seminar course. She was awarded the Bruce LeVine Mellion summer undergraduate research fellowship, which funded her project.

An administrative assistant in the College's Academic Enrichment office, DeBari is also on the Academic Excellence Conference committee, helping to edit the event's website and print the spring conference's program.

Sebert, DeBari's academic advisor, suggested she present part of her research, a paper titled "Reconciliation in Rwanda and If It's Working," at the 2012 Academic Excellence Conference. Not only did she present at the conference,

DeBari's research paper was published in the conference's journal, "Metamorphosis."

"Not only is a presentation at the Academic Excellence Conference something I can put on a resume, I love presenting - I get a presenter's high," DeBari said. "Plus I'm on my home turf with people I know from the community in the audience - it's less intimidating."

Also that year, DeBari traveled to Bosnia-Herzegovina with Keene State's Honors Global Engagement course, where she learned about the country's civil war from 1992–1995 and how it has altered the dynamics among the three major ethnic groups: the Serbs, the Croats, and the Bosniaks (Muslims). During her time there, she met with several non-government organizations that promoted unity among the country’s different ethnic groups

The second leg of her research, funded by the summer undergraduate scholarship, is titled " Rape During Genocide in Rwanda and Bosnia-Herzegovina: A Comparative Analysis." The project focused on her extensive literature review and comparative data analysis of court cases within post-genocide ad hoc international criminal tribunals. She hopes to present it at this year's Academic Excellence Conference.

Beyond graduation, DeBari plans to earn her graduate degree in sociology with a focus on gender violence and ultimately become a college professor.

"It's such a privilege to be able to talk about something I'm so passionate about and help people care about it too," she said.

Contact Academic Program Services

Donna Ward
Academic Program Services Assistant