Hello from Montenegro

by Nela (Vukmirović) Milošević ’08

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 7.21.22 AMI am writing from my homeland Montenegro, a small country in the Balkans, and in this post I just wanted to give a perspective from someone who now lives far away from Williams.

I am class of 2008, and I decided to go to Williams after attending Li Po Chun UWC in Hong Kong. I always wanted to study math, the only question was whether I would choose a second major. After experimenting a bit with physics and computer science, and due to my wish to spend my junior year studying abroad, I decided to stick with “just” math. When I arrived at Williams, I didn’t quite understand the Liberal Arts concept – I couldn’t comprehend why I was not allowed to take more math courses immediately in the first year, nor did I understand the purpose of compulsory writing intensive courses given my major of choice. It took me a while to understand that those courses are essential for any career you choose, and especially for an academic.

Fast forward four years, and I made a decision to come back to Montenegro. I was at the crossroads of my life, and I thought that if I stayed in the US for graduate study as well, I would never go back. Montenegro just gained its independence in 2006, and I felt I was needed there, as well as all the other young, bright people that left to get a better education somewhere else. It took some time to adjust, but I never regretted my decision. I wanted to continue to study mathematics, so I enrolled at the Mathematics Department of the University of Belgrade in Serbia, where I was lucky to have a wonderful mentor Prof. Zoran Petrović. I initially wanted to continue with algebraic number theory, which I fell in love with during Prof. Pacelli’s course my senior year at Williams, but eventually I got into the field of combinatorial algebraic topology. The research took a couple of years, and after several conferences, publishing three papers, and giving birth to my daughter, in October 2015 I defended my doctoral thesis.

I live in the capital of Montenegro, Podgorica, where I teach at the University of Donja Gorica. I am happy here – the university shares many of the values I inherited at Williams, and gives me the freedom to make a difference. Experience from Williams influences the way I teach every day, as I try to incorporate what I learned from professors that I admired: during lectures I try to be clear and meticulous like Prof. Loepp, encouraging like Prof. Burger, friendly and accessible like Prof. Pacelli, and excited about math like Prof. Morgan. I am very proud to tell people where I got my undergraduate degree, and excited when someone has already heard about Williams.

I haven’t been back to any reunions, and in fact I haven’t been back in the US since I graduated. But I got to see several of my Williams friends during travels through Europe. I even took a couple of vacations with them—one at Lago Maggiore in Italy and one on Santorini island in Greece—and some of them visited me in Montenegro.

So, my dear Williams alumni, students, and professors, if you ever come to Montenegro, just drop me an email. I would love to meet you, show you my country, and talk about Williams.