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2017 Zag Grads: Ladd Serwat

Ladd Serwat with wife Carley and friends from Burundi.

Ladd Serwat, an international relations major with a minor in French, will begin graduate studies in African development this fall at the London School of Economics as part of his plan to help the marginalized people in Burundi.

As an 18-year-old graduate of Lakeland High School in Rathdrum, Idaho, Serwat landed an internship with the Hope Project, a nonprofit organization that helped provide housing and education in African countries. He helped raise awareness and funds in the United States, along with some occasional travel to East Africa.

As a student at North Idaho College, he met wife Carley. Two years after they married, they moved to Burundi to learn the language and culture. They fell in love with the country and its people, many of whom had been marginalized due to land disputes. Some residents were displaced while others were forced to leave the country.

His experience with the Hope Project convinced Serwat he needed more academic research and preparation to play a significant role in the work, an epiphany that brought him home and to Gonzaga.

In political science and international relations courses, he explored the structural challenges to poverty, the criticism of relief efforts, the empowerment of local leaders to create solutions, and how relief organizations could work with the United Nations to be more effective.

At Gonzaga, Serwat found flexible faculty who supported his efforts to focus research projects on Burundi specifically and the Great Lakes Region in general. In particular, he credits Stacy Taninchev and Sean Swan, political science faculty.

“It’s been an eight-year commitment to seeing change happen in Burundi both in practice and through academic research,” Serwat noted in a graduate school admissions letter. “I am not giving up, losing focus, or willing to stop fighting on behalf of the poor, oppressed and vulnerable in this frequently forgotten country.”

Read about more of this year’s outstanding Gonzaga graduates.

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