Looking back at his decision to study public policy at CEU, Agim Selami (MAPP ‘12) said his motivation to go to graduate school was the recognition that he needed to upgrade his knowledge and skills on public policy analysis. “CEU was always my top choice,” he says, “mainly because it offered a high-ranking MA program on public policy at the global level, and because it was something of a hub for think tanks, policy analysts, and researchers.”
Selami says that his time at CEU was the “turning point” in his life. “Being in an environment where the culture of working independently is greatly promoted and stimulated while all needed resources are at one’s disposal encouraged me to take initiative and taught me how to become target driven,” he says. Selami describes his classmates as “all hardworking, and creative” and says that they too enhanced his CEU experience. Another attraction of CEU was its proximity to his home country of Macedonia. “My intention was to study abroad, but at the same time not to break ties with my homeland as I always wanted to return after completing my studies.”
It was while he was at CEU that Selami established the ZIP Institute (www.zipinstitute.mk), which has focused on creating a forum for young people to work together to support Macedonia as it transitions to a stable democracy, economic and social prosperity, and EU Integration. Selami cites the self-confidence and knowledge that he gained at CEU as having made it possible for him to establish ZIP Institute.
Selami was recently back in Budapest along with 30 participants from Macedonia and Kosovo as part of a study trip that ZIP organized to explore issues related to illegal migration, corruption, and organized crime. While in Budapest they visited Atlatszo.hu, the biggest investigative journalism website on corruption in Hungary, and the UNHCR headquarters in Budapest. They also met with CEU professors and others to find out more about the nature of political corruption in Hungary.
Selami says that the early days of the ZIP Institute were exhausting. “We embarked on a journey of starting everything from scratch. It basically meant no free weekends, no vacation, and less and less time for family and friends,” he remembers. He also did a lot of travelling abroad for networking purposes, a decision that he points to now as having been “the key for success thus far.” Selami and his colleagues have enjoyed a lot of success “thus far.” Selami admits that he is “impressed with what they have accomplished” noting that “ZIP is today a serious player in the third sector in Macedonia, and is active elsewhere in Europe as well.”
Looking ahead, Selami says that his plans “are always related to ZIP.” He is hoping to expand his staff “as the current workload is becoming unbearable.” Programmatically, Selami says that he hopes that ZIP will soon be able to provide micro grants for prospective social entrepreneurs in Macedonia, an effort that will help alleviate what he describes as “the unseen unemployment rate in our country.”