This Pirate hopes to establish
a women's center on campus.
Tijana Bijelac wants to advocate for underrepresented populations
Second year graduate student Tijana Bijelac is advocating for women and marginalized groups on East Carolina University’s campus.
Born in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bijelac remembers a time when a war forced her parents into hiding. “Neither of my parents wanted to be part of that war,” said Bijelac. “My dad was in hiding and then when they couldn’t find him, they tried to get my mom. That was a really chaotic time.”
Bijelac’s family relocated from Bosnia to Greensboro when Bijelac was 7. She said her experiences have had an impact on her and how she sees the world.
“I immigrated to the U.S and couldn't speak the language for a long time so I felt like an outsider,” said Bijelac. “I think that made my interest in the identities that go into making you feel like an outsider or ‘other’ emerge.”
After graduating from high school, Bijelac completed her undergraduate degree in communications with a concentration in public and interpersonal relations at N. C. State University. With minors in health, medicine, human values and linguistics, Bijelac explored the interaction between individuals and health systems.
As an undergrad, Bijelac volunteered for the RSVP line, a relationship violence phone line at the women’s center at NCSU before discovering the marriage and family therapy program at ECU.
Now, as a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in family therapy, Bijelac has brought her concern for women’s issues to ECU, where she is spearheading work to establish a women’s center on campus.
“I approached some of my professors and they helped me get in touch with some people who also wanted to start it,” said Bijelac. “I want (the women’s center) to be utilized. I think there are a lot of different issues that can be addressed when it comes to women and minorities.”
Bijelac said that a women’s center will create a safe environment for all individuals, while raising awareness about women's and gender issues, especially how intersecting identities play a part in those issues.
“I’m an intersectional feminist and I think it’s really important that we prioritize people who have been historically forgotten and unrepresented,” said Bijelac. “A women’s center can help target populations that have been historically unaddressed.”
Through her graduate program, Bijelac established internships at the ECU Family Therapy Clinic and the behavioral health unit at Vidant Medical Center, where she sees clients under the supervision of professors.
“It's always exciting and new; it's nice to not…know exactly how your day will go or what you will hear,” said Bijelac. “It's also fulfilling to be present with people in their pain and connect to them on a human level.”
Bijelac is exploring her options, but hopes to become a therapist after graduating.
Why did you decide to attend ECU?
When I came to interview here it was amazing. The faculty was so helpful and they were so excited. All of the people who were graduating or in their first year here were happy and there was so much growth in so many areas. In the internships, (students) are everywhere. They’re in schools, they’re in community health centers and they’re in community programs. I can get so much experience here.
What is Intersectional Feminism?
Intersectional feminism is recognizing that people do not experience oppression on the same level, that your intersecting identities influence your experiences of the world. People who identify with the dominant structure tend to be at an advantage. Feminism is helpful to all genders because patriarchy and misogyny are not only detrimental to women; they have serious negative impacts for men as well. Feminism allows us to explore the roles and rules that surround different pieces of our identity; these roles and rules usually have significant negative consequences and repercussions that often go unexamined because they are so ingrained in our society.
What about family therapy interests you?
I am always interested in seeing how people approach each other and the patterns that they make. I think one of the biggest parts for me is helping people realize that the way they see someone is not how they actually are. I like seeing roles people take on. A lot of times the roles we take on impact us in negative ways and we feel trapped by them. I like encouraging people to explore that. For example, you should be feminine; you should be masculine, but are these dichotomous roles actually helpful for you?
Photography by: Cliff Hollis
Written by: Summer Tillman
College: Human Ecology
Major: Marriage and Family Therapy
Class: Second year graduate student
Hometown: Zenica, Bosnia
Clubs & Organizations: American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, Marriage and Family Therapy Student Association
Place on Campus: Reddit House (ECU Family Therapy Clinic)
Hangout: The dog park in Greenville
Place to Eat: Christy’s
Class: Family Therapy Practicum
Website: Rotten Tomatoes
Hobbies and Interests: Painting, watching scary movies, reading thrillers
TV Show: "Seinfeld"
Musician/band: Stevie Nicks
Movie: "Legally Blonde"
Most Influential Professor: Damon Rappleyea
Dream Job: Private practice
You Can’t Live Without: My dog, Maeby
Role Model: My mom
Words to Live By: “We’re all going to die, all of us, what a circus! That alone should make us love each other but it doesn’t. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing.” — The Captain Is Out to Lunch and the Sailors Have Taken Over the Ship by Charles Bukowski
Advice for Fellow Students: Don’t feel like you are alone in this world even though we take strength in that. You are not alone. You’ll never actually be alone. As soon as you recognize that isn’t a weakness, it’ll give you strength.
Something cool about ECU you wish you knew during your first year: The North Recreational Complex.
“Don’t feel like you are alone in this world even though we take strength in that. You are not alone. You’ll never actually be alone. As soon as you recognize that isn’t a weakness, it’ll give you strength."
– Tijana Bijelac