Bridgewater State has a planetarium on campus, where you can look at the stars, and I’ve always had dreams that are larger than life…BSU has helped me reach all the stars I’ve ever wanted to touch.
Standing in the United Nations Assembly Hall in Geneva, Switzerland, Tiana Jurisic-McGuire, ’19, smiles. She knows she’s come a long way from the little girl living in a Bosnian refugee camp. In fact, these days she’s turned the tables: she’s working to help people who are as vulnerable as she once was.
Originally from Bosnia, Jurisic-McGuire and her family were forced to enter a refugee camp shortly after war broke out in 1992.
“I can recall picking worms out of the cornmeal and picking bugs out of potatoes so we would have something to eat,” the Bridgewater State University alumna said.
Despite the difficulties, Jurisic-McGuire said, she wouldn’t change a thing about the experience.
“It taught me a lot. I learned to persevere from a very young age,” she said. “When you’ve gone hungry and lived in fear, it gives you a fire that a lot of people don’t really relate to. It’s been a critical piece in moving forward in my adult life.”
This summer, she brings her passion to Geneva where she works as a human rights intern on the Human Rights Report for the United Nations.
Among other things, she is responsible for presenting reports to 93 members of the United Nations regarding specific issues related to the rights of women, children, and the right to an education.
The hardships of her childhood inspired her to reach for the stars, to be fearless. That desire to fly is how she discovered BSU.
“When I was a little girl, my dream job was to be a pilot, and I had heard that Bridgewater State had an aviation program,” said Jurisic-McGuire, who has family ties to New England. “I’ve known since I was 12 that’s where I wanted to go to school, so that’s where I applied.”
Once she got to BSU her flight path, so to speak, changed. She decided to double major in political science, with an international relations concentration, and criminal justice. She also minored in anthropology.
Jurisic-McGuire immersed herself in campus life and tried new things such as becoming a member of the Irish step team, joining a sorority, and participating in BSU’s Best Buddies program.
“When I was at Bridgewater I even went skydiving. That was awesome,” she said. “But my favorite, most important role, was being a study abroad ambassador.”
Jurisic-McGuire only spent three semesters on the BSU campus, the rest of the time she took advantage of the school’s study abroad program to travel and study around the world.
She became the youngest recipient of an Erasmus Grant offered through the BSU Study Abroad office that allowed her to spend a year doing human rights research in Manchester, England.
The time spent in England further strengthened her desire to help others and when she learned of the internship with the United Nations, Jurisic-McGuire applied and was accepted.
Unfortunately, because of COVID, the internship was cancelled. So, instead she pursued and earned her master’s degree in public health from UMass Lowell.
Last November, however, she was surprised to receive a call asking if she was still interested in moving to Geneva to take part in the prestigious internship.
After a long discussion with her husband, she accepted the offer and made the move overseas this past April.
Once she’s completed the internship, she plans to start her PhD in Public Health at the University of North Carolina and will be spending time in South Africa doing dissertation work.
When she thinks about her journey, Jurisic-McGuire credits BSU for serving as a catalyst and helping to create the path she’s on.
“Bridgewater State has a planetarium on campus, where you can look at the stars, and I’ve always had dreams that are larger than life…BSU has helped me reach all the stars I’ve ever wanted to touch,” she said.
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