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Yugoslavian émigré wins Rena Ratte Award

Gregarious and self-confident, Jelena Obradovic ’02 has overcome the trauma of war, relocation, and culture shock to carve a place for herself in the United States.


In May, she won the Rena J. Ratte Award, the College’s highest academic honor, which is announced with much fanfare each year at Honors Convocation.


Obradovic left her home in the part of war-torn Yugoslovia that is now Serbia to attend high school in a Chicago suburb. In May, she graduated from Lewis & Clark with departmental honors in psychology. She hopes to give something back to her native land once she completes her studies.


“Jelena brings from her experiences in that country not only a sensitivity to the human condition unusual among those her age, but also a spirit of independence and determination that is so much a part of the identity of her homeland,” said Curtis Johnson, dean of the College.


After being accepted into a number of graduate schools, Obradovic is heading to the University of Minnesota on a full scholarship to study developmental psychology. She chose Minnesota because it’s ranked No. 1 in her area of interest.


“If we expect children who are poor, homeless, orphans, refugees, immigrants, or members of a minority to become healthy, productive members of our society, then we must devote more attention to their vulnerability in childhood and adolescent development,” Obradovic says.


Describing Obradovic’s academic profile, Tom Schoeneman, professor of psychology, said, “Phi Beta Kappa as a junior, Kenya overseas study, SAAB representative, math and science student, artist, psychology honors, nearly flawless speaker of English as a second language, investigator of art education in the Head Start Program, 4.0 GPA, and the list goes on. Memo to our admissions office: Clone her!”


Rena Ratte was a Lewis & Clark philosophy instructor and professor during the 1960s. Colleagues, students, and friends established the award in her memory following her unexpected death in 1970. The annual cash value of the award is $500.


—by Pattie Pace

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