This article is a reflection following the IEEE Student and Young Professional Congress 2016 (IEEE SYPC 2016), which it was held in Sarajevo in 01.-04.12.2016.

Aleksandar Mastilovic, BH Futures Foundation Board Member presenting to students 

Aleksandar Mastilovic, BH Futures Foundation Board Member presenting to students 

In the days following the IEEE SYPC 2016, enthusiasm and positive energy was extremely high amongst the young Bosnian-Herzegovinian students, who participated. I heard ideas being discussed, visions pictured and plans being prepared, whilst the professionals spoke about the achievements that could be attained and the most profitable decisions for Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH).

Nonetheless, I was concerned that this passion would swiftly perish. I have definitely been witness to similar situations, where successful BiH diaspora would visit our small eastern European country, encourage young, talented students with their plans to create a better future in BiH and then get back to their day jobs and subsequently forget the promises that they had given to the youth of BiH. Unfortunately, the situation described above is one that has happened too often and has left young Bosnian-Herzegovinian students feeling disappointed and undermined. I was hoping that following the IEEE SYPC 2016, this would not be the case - and I was delightfully surprised.

I am euphoric to be reflecting on my first positive experience with diaspora investing their experience and effort into aiding BiH youth. The IEEE SYPC 2016 was an event that really left an optimistic atmosphere behind it and to this day it’s beneficial impact continues to motivate students and professionals alike. I must admit that the IEEE SYPC 2016 would not have happened without the unreserved commitment of my colleague and friend Eddie Custovic, who is a longtime world-recognized IEEE volunteer and manager. Eddie’s visions and passion have served as an incentive to transform the accessibility that Bosnian-Herzegovinian students have to modern engineering practices and related studies. I will use this chance to thank him for his dedication and for giving students from the University eMPRICA to nurture their talents during the IEEE SYPC 2016 congress.

The BH Futures Foundation was subsequently founded to continue supporting young people and their projects in BiH. As we are representatives of IEEE and board members of the foundation, we strieve to continue collaborating with universities and students alike. The following article describes  my visit of the higher education provider, eMPRICAand an example of our projects.

Higher education provider eMPRICA, a modern private-owned tertiary institution, is located in the city of Tuzla. During the congress students from the institution were mesmerized by the ideas presented before them and in their spare time during the congress, they discussed how they could embrace the new-found positive energy. It was concluded that establishing an IEEE Student Branch as part of the University was a definite priority. We worked hard on developing this vision, which was promoted in the local media during the 5 year anniversary celebrations of eMPRICA’s existance.

As a part of the celebration, I was given an opportunity to hold two lectures - the first topic being, "Innovations: More than Research and Development" and the second on the topic of "The Internet of Things". These lectures were used as an informative platform, to change the perception students had about tertiary education. BH Futures Foundation wants to ensure students understand that a diploma or formal academic degree does not equate to knowledge or skill. We want students to understand that employability stems from offering unique ideas, abilities and technicalities coupled with formal education. Once this is accepted as common knowledge, only then will we be able to wisespread success amongst youth in BiH. We also hope to encourage students to use their creativity to form their own start-ups and companies based on innovative solutions - instead of relying solely on the government to create jobs. 

In order to action the solutions that have been proposed above, BH Futures Foundation has assisted eMPRICA in  launching several student projects that will create exciting opportunities for the youth in BiH.

I have no doubt that the human potential, which is reflected in the young and talented people, is perhaps the most outstanding resource that we have in BiH, as well as in neighbouring countries. The recovery of the region, will begin only when we start recognizing and securing this potential. And I truly hope that my reflections will serve as an example of how we should keep spreading positive stories and ideas in order to keep motivating young, talented individuals to implement their innovative solutions.

Report by Aleksandar Mastilovic, BH Futures Foundation Board Member