College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Political science alumna details path from refugee to human rights activist

Date: October 19, 2012

 Nerina Cevra
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Nerina Cevra
Posted on October 18, 2012


Margaret Mitchell once said “Life’s under no obligation to give us what we expect,” and that philosophy has shaped Grand Valley alumna Nerina Cevra’s life.

On Thursday, October 18 Cerva shared her story, called “My Warpath: From Refugee to Activist for Rights of Victims of Armed Violence” with students, faculty and alumni. 

Cevra spoke about her time spent in Bosnia during the Bosnian War, her travels to the United Statesas a refugee and the work she is currently doing with Action on Armed Violence as a human rights attorney on behalf of land mine survivors and victims of armed violence.

“The path that my life took is the reason that I do the work I do today,” said Cevra. “The two are intrinsically linked.”

Cevra graduated from Grand Valley in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in international relations. After graduating from Grand Valley, she earned a law degree from American University Washington College of Law. 

“During my time at Grand Valley my professors encouraged me to make up my own mind, which is a skill I value in the work I do today,” said Cerva. “They never narrowed my thinking or imposed a certain view, so I was able to explore a variety of different options I wouldn’t necessarily get elsewhere.”

Cerva said the work she does with victims of armed violence revolves around three central ideas: research and policy advocacy, programming, and survivor participation. 

“I was very lucky to survive the war and get the opportunities I did because so many weren’t as lucky,” Cerva said. “I’m in a position to do the work it takes to allow the voices of victims to be heard, and I feel that it is my responsibility to do so.”

“Seeing role models who’ve gone out and had experiences like Nerina’s inspires students and helps them think concretely about their careers in international relations,” said Polly Diven, director of international relations at GVSU. 

For more information about Action on Armed Violence visit aoav.org/UK.


Cevra will also be a guest at the Political Science/International Relations Department open coffee hour on Friday, October 19, where she will meet and greet students, faculty and staff in the department office in Au Sable Hall from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m.

For more information, contact the Political Science Department at (616) 331-2320.

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