Childhood Ambition

I grew up in a small town in northern Bosnia. My early ambition was to go to university abroad, but the war broke out in 1992 so this was no longer a realistic option. Wartime in my hometown meant blockades, shelling, and food shortage. My family was lucky to have a little land so we could grow our own food, but our focus was on surviving.

Path to Bryn Mawr

I had just finished high school when the peace accords were signed, and I was hired by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe as an interpreter for the first postwar election. It was intense and chaotic work, but it eventually led to another job as a national trainer in Sarajevo. I spent the next few years developing curricula, learning electoral law, and working with the provisional election commission to train polling station workers. I worked my way up the ladder until, one day, my supervisor told me I couldn’t go any further without a college education. It was suggested that I look into Bryn Mawr. I did a little research, applied, and was lucky enough to get a full scholarship. The truth is, I would have gone to any school that offered me a scholarship, but I’m glad it was Bryn Mawr and endlessly grateful to those who made it happen. It was the right place for me.

What did you like most about Bryn Mawr?

I loved the small community and incredible support that Bryn Mawr women have for each other. I don't think you get that anywhere else. For me, it was exactly what college should be, and I tell anyone who will listen to consider Bryn Mawr.

Biggest Bryn Mawr lesson

Bryn Mawr taught me the critical thinking, research, and writing skills I needed to synthesize my experience “on the ground” in Bosnia. It helped me further develop a strong intellectual curiosity. I often find myself grappling with an issue and thinking, “that would make a great five-page paper.” That’s a direct result of my Bryn Mawr education.

Tell us about your current work

I am continuing the work I began as a 17-year-old in Bosnia, working for a nonprofit that partners with civil society organizations around the world to support the growth of democracy and help strengthen the integrity of electoral institutions and systems. I cover the Asia-Pacific region, where we also run civic and voter education programs for youth, women, people with disabilities, and other underrepresented populations. We see elections as a human right and are very passionate about promoting democracy.

Proudest accomplishment

I’ve had a lot of luck ... luck that I lived through the war, luck that my first job led to other jobs, luck that someone noticed that I was smart, and luck that others helped me to get an education. But it has been a lot of work, too. It’s not easy to find your way as an immigrant, to meet needs and goals without the nearby support of family and friends. I’m proud that I continued to work hard, and I didn’t give up along the way.

How have you defied expectation?

Everything that I am has defied expectation.

Melika Atic '04
Deputy Director for Asia-Pacific, International Foundation for Electoral Systems / Washington, D.C.

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