Born and raised in Serbia, Jovana Milosavljevic Ardeljan’s journey to the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Graduate School was anything but conventional. It all began with a passion for education — and a love story.
Jovana, who was based in Serbia then, would visit her boyfriend Milan Ardeljan who was pursuing a Ph.D. at UNH. She spent most of her three-month visit auditing a class and studying for her GRE in the Dimond Library, while having lunch together with Milan at Holloway Commons. Their love grew — and so did Jovana’s for UNH.
In 2014, her acceptance letter to her dream school — UNH — finally arrived, and she departed Serbia for the campus she quickly dubbed her second home. “I knew what to expect, and I loved it,” she recalls. “I had already made some friends, and I’d been to classes, so I wasn’t adjusting to everything at once.”
At ease, she began her MA in English before seamlessly transitioning to a Ph.D. in education. Gearing up for doctoral success is no easy feat, but Jovana had UNH’s Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) with her. Support was never short.
The OISS specialises in helping international students understand visa requirements related to employment in the U.S., plan careers, master the English language and grasp cultural nuances. The university’s professional development programmes were just as impactful. “They helped me navigate graduate school and life in the U.S., too,” she says.
“The first professional development event I went to made me feel like someone opened the door and let me into this whole world of knowledge and skill development that I hadn’t known where to acquire. I was and still am impressed by how much these co-curricular programmes not only help provide holistic education, support and structure for students to be ready for life after graduate school, but also to be able to navigate the challenges and opportunities while they are in their programmes,” she says.
Inspired, Jovana spent the next six years of her time at UNH dedicated to exploring almost every facet of professional development. While primed to succeed in the workforce of her choosing, she felt compelled to use her newfound knowledge and skills to help other students at UNH grasp the same invaluable insights she captured as a student.
Today, she continues to thrive at UNH as its new director for career and professional development for graduate students and post-docs. Her role entails listening to students’ needs, keeping offerings relevant and exploring the current issues in higher education. Most importantly, she works tirelessly to develop a holistic support system to complement professional development programmes on research, teaching, mental health, self-care, networking, socialising, community building, career planning and much more.
“These programmes are designed not to take students away from their studies and research but to help them be more efficient and successful in completing their work in order to optimise time and feel prepared for their future careers beyond just being an expert on a subject matter,” Jovana explains. “All the programmes are created with specific populations in mind to ensure that we serve the varying needs of different audiences.”
Every semester, Jovana and her team invite an expert speaker to teach students how to conduct themselves as professionals, exude confidence during interviews, negotiate job terms and network effectively. They also conduct masterclasses focused on life skills that will serve learners well in the workplace and beyond — such as time management, work-life balance and financial wellness.
Of course, multiple skills can be gained beyond classroom confines as well, which is why all postgraduate and doctoral students are encouraged to attend conferences off campus. Wherever they go, they arrive ready to take full advantage of the conversations that surround them. The UNH Graduate School offers a wide range of opportunities for tomorrow’s leaders and changemakers to improve their communication skills across professional, public and personal platforms.
“Based on my work, research and experience, I’d say that communication comes first,” Jovana says. “I can’t stress enough how important it is to be able to articulate clearly the value, importance and application of one’s work to stakeholders. Standing out, being authentic and developing cultural competencies are equally important. It’s clear that because we are committed to providing holistic support across every element of our graduate school, our students graduate more than ready for their next step.”