By Felipe Bueno
In the dawn of the 1990s, the federation of states once known as Yugoslavia were ravaged by a conflict that claimed upwards of 140,000 lives and displaced over 4 million. Among the many lives shaped by the wars was conflict resolution expert Dr. Borislava Manojlovic, who at the time had dreams of becoming an artist. “When I was a teenager I wanted to go on to attend the art academy,” recounts Manojlovic. “But then the war came.”
The effects of the wars in the Balkans sparked an interest in Manojlovic that pushed her toward a career in peacemaking and conflict resolution. Her interest led her first to an interpreter position with the United Nations. After the war erupted in Kosovo, Manojlovic continued her work with the U.N. as a project manager with the Minorities Information Sector, where she was an editor of a newsletter dedicated to the Serbian speaking population.
However, she became frustrated with the work that was being done. “We had a lot of initiatives, but I didn’t see our impact,” noted Manojlovic. Although she “felt that these projects were good and had good intentions,” she “didn’t see that what we were doing was actually changing the situation,” as “the implementation faced a lot of obstacles.”
Manojlovic eventually came to the realization that she could make a bigger impact by influencing policy through scholarly work within academia. While working on her doctoral dissertation at George Mason University, Manojlovic began to focus her attention towards projects on the Basque Country, working alongside none other than School of Diplomacy Dean Andrea Bartoli.
Dr. Bartoli spoke of his “wonderful experience” working with Dr. Manojlovic, whom he finds to be “very rigorous and dedicated.”
“She has continued the tradition of deep engagement both in South Orange and in the Basque Country,” Bartoli said.
Dr. Manojlovic now focuses on studying how the Basque people have dealt with their past. She was both “impressed and surprised” to discover that the Basque Country possessed “very good programs and very good approaches towards the past,” which she feels has “made their case much more successful than the Balkans.” Her work continues to motivate her, as she “became more passionate about the topic by seeing the importance of post conflict-reconstruction and peace building.”
Her passion has led her to develop a study abroad course that will take place in January 2016, where she will teach students about constructive ways of dealing with the contentious past. Manojlovic’s time in the Basque Country has reaffirmed her belief: “You can only be successful if you are collaborative and respectful of others.”
Her dedication to collaboration is most evident in the respect and admiration that her colleagues express. Thomas Hill (MA ’15), a founding member of Manojlovic’s Basque Research Team, describes working with her as “an invaluable experience.”
“Dr. Manojlovic is unique in that she seeks students out to help her,” Hill shared. “She knows the importance of mentorship and involving students in School of Diplomacy projects.”
Dr. Borislava Manojlovic is an extremely talented and motivated researcher whose life and experiences have shaped her trajectory. “Sometimes you don’t choose your profession,” she stated. “Your profession chooses you.”