New Alice Rowan Swanson Fellow brings human rights education to post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina

Publication Date: April 30, 2024
Publication Location: Brattleboro, VT
Contact: Abby Henson  |  [email protected]

A young person stands in front of a body of water.
Ana Gvozdic is a 2024 Alice Rowan Swanson Fellow.

School for International Training has named Ana Gvozdic, a 2020 alumnus of SIT’s Peace and Conflict Studies in the Balkans* program, as the newest Alice Rowan Swanson Fellow. Gvozdic graduated from Macalester College in 2021 with a BA in peace and conflict studies.

For her fellowship, Gvozdic will implement the project “Inclusive Human Rights Education: the Mostar Summer Youth Program Expansion” in Mostar, a city in Bosnia and Herzegovina where she was born and lived for 15 years. The project aims to enhance the UčiMo Foundation’s Mostar Summer Youth Program by placing particular emphasis on human rights education for both the participants and volunteers.

Since 2014, the Mostar Summer Youth Program has been providing youth age 14-19 from the city and surrounding areas with the opportunity to engage in a three-week summer program filled with courses, workshops, day trips, and social events. A diverse team of local and international volunteers work to improve the participants’ confidence and skills in teamwork, cross-cultural understanding, and community engagement.

Mostar has been divided since the end of the Yugoslav wars in the 1990s. This has resulted in an ethnically segregated educational system, high rates of unemployment, and a brain drain, Gvozdic said.

"The Mostar Summer Youth Program has been one of the few community spaces that offers young people a space to socialize and learn in a positive environment regardless of their background."

A woman poses at a table on a terrace with a city along a river in the background.
Gvozdic in Bosnia and Herzegovina

From May to August, Gvozdic will expand the program’s potential to advance human rights education through a human rights advocacy course and teacher training, including a module on understanding the local post-war context so volunteers can increase their sensitivity and capacity to develop a conducive learning environment. Through these courses, Gvozdic aims to contribute to meaningful local initiatives that help curb the potential for more conflict in the future.

The project is very personal for Gvozdic, who participated in the Mostar Summer Youth Project in 2015, was a teaching assistant in 2016, and a teacher in 2017.

“The Alice Rowan Swanson Fellowship is such a meaningful opportunity for me to reconnect with a unique youth education program in my hometown of Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina--a program that stands apart by its inclusive nature in a post-war ethnically divided context,” said Gvozdic. “By teaching a course on human rights advocacy and supporting an initiative that brings young people together in the aftermath of human rights violations, I hope to support and strengthen local capacities for sustainable peacebuilding and reconciliation.”

Gvozdic brings additional expertise as a former program officer for the Youth Initiative for Human Rights in Croatia. She also delivered human rights workshops in Germany at the age of 16. She is currently pursuing an MA in holocaust and genocide studies at Uppsala University in Sweden, where she plans to write her thesis on the impact of youth education programs in the field of peacebuilding and reconciliation.

“Ana Gvozdic is truly a unique person. She is one of the strongest SIT alumnus our program has had in recent years,” said Dr. Orli Fridman, SIT’s academic director for the Peace and Conflict Studies in the Balkans program. “She herself was born and raised in Bosnia-Herzegovina and went away for her high school and undergraduate years. She attended SIT as an international student, and the uniqueness of her project is, among other things, her wish to contribute and give back to her community.”

The Alice Rowan Swanson Fellowship was established in 2009 by the family of SIT Study Abroad Nicaragua 2006 alumnus Alice Rowan Swanson as a living tribute to her life, her passion for bridging cultures and helping others, and the role that SIT Study Abroad played in her life. A 2007 Amherst College graduate, Alice was killed while riding her bike to work in 2008.

The fellowships are awarded twice annually to SIT Study Abroad and International Honors Program alumni to return to their program country and pursue further development projects benefiting human rights in that region.

*The Peace and Conflict in the Balkans program is now Belgrade, Budapest, and Vienna: Comparative European Perspectives on Conflict and Democracy.