Nov. 29, 2006
SMU graduate Vedrana (Vecky) Juko (’06) is returning as a national scholar to the land she fled as a 10-year-old. Juko was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study emerging democracy in Croatia. Born in Bosnia, she and her family vacationed every summer in Croatia until they left the Balkans in 1993 to avoid political unrest. Juko is a graduate of Hillcrest High School.
A political science, economics, and German major at SMU, Juko will spend 10 months at the University of Rijeka in Croatia, where she will analyze the country’s transition from national to local power. She will work with professors, non-government organizations, and local politicians in Rijeka, one of two Croatian cities that has been given the opportunity to plan its own economic development.
In 1991 Croatia declared its independence from Yugoslavia, triggering the Croatian War of Independence. The war ended in 1995, but Croatia remained an isolated country with a struggling economy. In 2000 a coalition of six opposing parties took over the governance of Croatia and began the process of decentralizing power.
“A willingness to increase the importance of local government is the right path for Croatia,” Juko says. “This undertaking gives hope to other countries that are transitioning to democracy.”
Juko brings a unique perspective to the study of democracy. After leaving Bosnia her family moved to Germany, then the United States in 1998. She became a U.S. citizen last year.
“Her intense curiosity and own life story make her look at the world in a different way,” says Jim Hollifield, SMU professor of political science. Hollifield says Juko, who was a student in his seminar on the immigrant experience, “has a penetrating mind and a certain amount of intellectual boldness that comes from living the immigrant experience.”
In addition to her own experience, Juko has completed two internships. As a recipient of a Maguire Center for Ethics/Irby Family Public Service Internship in 2004, she spent the summer in Bosnia with the Association of the Elected Officials. She also worked as a public affairs intern for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. At SMU she was a member of the rowing team, the German Club, and the International Relations Club, and earned a Tower Center scholarship for a semester abroad in Paris.
“Vecky is getting to do what some only dream about. She has the opportunity to go back and study the society she came from,” Hollifield says. “She’ll study a country that has gone through wrenching change to become part of democratic Europe and learn how difficult it is to move from an authoritarian system to a democratic system.”
The Fulbright Program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, awards 6,000 grants a year that enable U.S. students, teachers, and scholars to conduct research in more than 150 countries.
- 30 -