Living What She Learned: Tayma Bislim '13

Tayma Bislim '13 speaking at a 2017 "Refugees of Denison" event in the library, with Hibak Hussein '20 (left), originally from Somalia, and Madina Khudaynazar '19 of Afghanistan (right).

Passions are personal for Tayma Bislim ’13. At age 6, Tayma and her family fled their native Bosnia and the brutal war there to find safety in Cleveland, Ohio — a city Tayma now calls home. 

As her life experience helped to inform much of her academic interest, Bislim's academic experience has also helped to shape her life. Bislim entered Denison’s International Studies program to study human rights and international justice, particularly focusing on genocide. Her second major, Religion, brought an interdisciplinary aspect to exploring her interests, as she wove both of her majors together to understand the genocide in Bosnia from an ethnoreligious framework.

Eager to compliment classroom engagement with fieldwork, Tayma spent a semester of her junior year studying with DIS Copenhagen’s Justice and Human Rights program, which included a study tour in Bosnia. She traveled to the central location of her Denison research, the Srebrenica genocide, a mass gravesite where nearly 6,000 Muslim Bosnians were murdered in 1995.

After her semester abroad, Tayma returned to campus and studied conflict resolution as a Woodyard summer scholar in 2012. She then focused her international studies senior research on the discourses surrounding a burial site in Srebrenica, drawing on her off-campus learning and studies in the religion department. Tayma investigated the site’s multiple narratives by studying the role of collective memory, ethnoreligious forces, and gender in contributing to Srebenica’s many meanings.

Her self-designed research clinched her passion for conflict resolution and human rights, which she pursued as a graduate student at the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies. Tayma designed an independent study exploring women’s rights in post-conflict settings, co-led community dialogues with diverse religious populations, and interned at a grassroots organization promoting relationship-building between Palestinian and Israeli youth. Tayma earned her Masters of Conflict Resolution in fewer than two years and graduated in the top of her class — accomplishments which she credits, in part, to the analytical research and writing skills she developed in Denison’s International Studies Program.

In 2015, Tayma returned to Cleveland and began work as caseworker at the Jewish Family Service Association (JFSA) of Cleveland, where she currently supports nearly 80 Holocaust survivors through a range of work including assisting with reparation claims and providing access to eldercare and trauma management resources. Having connected with a Holocaust survivor at Auschwitz during her semester abroad, Tayma’s current work expands her experience with understanding genocide and protecting the human rights of a population she cares deeply about.

“I want to be someone who is always helping,” she said of her professional career. For Tayma, serving survivors of genocide — not unlike herself — creates hope that “somehow, some way things will get better.”

August 15, 2017