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Honors Students Visit Bosnia

September 7, 2012

During the spring 2012 semester, 10 students in the Honors Program—Allie Bedell, Brittany Boscarino, Becca Brady, Katie Conlon, Johanna DeBari, Kristen Hunyadi, Jessica Lulka, Julia Oberst, William Pearson, and Eliza Smiley—took Associate Professor of Sociology Brian Green's Honors Global Engagement course focusing on Bosnia-Herzegovina, in south-eastern Europe. They learned about Bosnia's culture, its history, and the issues affecting the country today. Particular emphasis was placed on the late civil war from 1992–1995 and how that has altered the dynamics among the three major ethnic groups: the Serbs, the Croats, and the Bosniaks (Muslims).

At the end of the semester, the class traveled to Bosnia-Herzegovina for two weeks, staying in Sanski Most for the first week and Sarajevo the second. They met with several nongovernment organizations that promoted unity among the country's different ethnic groups. Though the war ended nearly 20 years ago, there is still great tension among the Serbs, Croats, and Bosniaks in Bosnia. "All of the students really enjoyed getting a taste of a culture that has withstood centuries of ethnic conflict," Dr. Green reported.

Professor and Cohen Chair for Holocaust and Genocide Studies James Waller accompanied the group to lend his expertise on genocide and his work with perpetrators in the former Yugoslavia. "I think the intent of any program like this is to situate students’ learning in the context (geographical, historical, and psychological) of the region about which they are learning," Dr. Waller explained. "Such situated learning has an incredibly powerful impact on the educational process, especially when the “teachers” are in-country experts who have lived through the conflict as well as working as partners in the rebuilding of the region."

Though the trip was primarily educational: "We did do something more than just learn," Dr. Green noted. "We worked very closely with an organization called the Center for Peacebuilding while we were there, and in addition to joint workshops with their volunteers and some local youths, we also helped them in various ways. For example, we helped them set up their new offices by doing some decorations (with the peacebuilding theme), and we helped them identify grant opportunities and do research on existing grants. We also spent a day with a group of children from an orphanage in the town where we were staying. We designed that as a kind of service opportunity because we were able to take the kids out for a nature hike and buy them lunch and ice cream, while also helping them practice their English and learn something about America."

This was the second overseas trip open to honors students during the academic year. The other was to Nicaragua.