Dejan Bosnjak, Political Advisor to the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina
“For more than twenty years now Jesse has been my role model, mentor and a friend, the person I turn to to share my successes or seek advice and guidance. I believe I have never met such an accomplished professional who lived by the principle "pass-on to others in life” and believes that the basic pillar of any development program is professional development of the local staff. His leadership style encouraged not only local but also international staff to work together to solve problems; inclusion of the entire team in decision making and program implementation; and to learn from each other.
When the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) ended, I met Jesse at the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) in Trebinje. The war had interrupted my law school studies, my English was basic at best, my self-esteem was below zero, and my qualifications were barely sufficient to get a job as a driver. Instead of letting me drive the OSCE staff from point A to point B, Jesse included me in the program implementation and entrusted me with the tasks beyond my scope of work. From the onset he recognized my skills and abilities that, frankly, I was not aware of. He gently encouraged and worked with me over time on my confidence building and skills development, while tirelessly helping me improve my English. He never missed the opportunity, whether during our long rides throughout BiH, during or after work hours, to talk to me about the program, my life aspirations, my view on the political situation in BiH, or to practice English. Over time I became a Program Assistant and then the Special Assistant to the Brcko Director, one of the top three local position in the entire OSCE BiH Mission. Jesse inspired me to pursue the international development career, but that was not possible in/from BiH and without a formal education.
In 1997 Jesse invited me to the US to visit him and his family. He soon encouraged me to continue my formal education, first at a community college in Maryland to improve my written English. With the help of Jesse and others I received the Georgetown University SJ Arrupe Scholarship in Washington, DC. By doing this he created a once-in-a-life time opportunity for me to experience the “American Dream.” He believed in me and worked tirelessly to help me in any possible way to apply for and complete my undergraduate and graduate degrees (with distinction) at the School of Foreign Service of Georgetown University. It is the combination of the Georgetown University education and my personal growth under Jesse’s mentorship that opened the door for endless opportunities in my international career. I have worked with the local and international NGOs, USAID, OTI/USAID, the World Bank, and others on programs on focusing on Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Sudan, and most recently Syria. At any future step in my career, I will always turn to Jesse for advice and support.
My ultimate career goal has been to gain the international experience and one day return to BiH and help build peace and regional institutions and cooperation. Now I work for the BiH Government as a Political Advisor. I can say with confidence that the person I am today is thanks to Jesse. Also, I know several people from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Afghanistan whose professional development and career Jesse helped. I believe the world would be a much better place if we had more people like Jesse.”