Connecticut College Magazine · Winter 2006

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Vedat Gashi ´01

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Vedat Gashi ´01

Vedat Gashi ´01
Vedat Gashi ´01

From SGA to Kosovo´s Ministry of Local Government

By Jordana Gustafson


Shortly after graduating from Seton Hall Law School and just after passing the New York State Bar Exam, Vedat Gashi ’01 headed to Pristina, Kosovo, as a consultant in the office of the country’s prime minister.

Today, he is chief legal advisor to Kosovo’s Ministry of Local Government. As Kosovo anticipates official statehood, one of Gashi’s prime responsibilities is to write the laws that govern the country’s municipalities.

“I was born here and speak the language — so, as a lawyer, when I heard they were writing the laws and setting up the framework for a new country, and they didn’t have enough people to do it, I was very eager to be part of the process.”

It’s an important-sounding title, one hardly expected to belong to someone still in his 20s and less than five years out of an undergraduate program.

“When they asked whether I would be comfortable chairing a meeting in Kosovo, I didn’t hesitate in saying yes,” says Gashi, referring to a high-level government committee on drafting of legislation. “Of course I didn’t mention that the only experience I had was with student government.”

Though he was born in Kosovo in 1978, in a small village just outside the city of Peja, Gashi sees himself as an American. His mother and father — who completed the seventh and eighth grades, respectively — moved the family to New York in the early 1980s in order to find work.

“My boss [Lutfi Haziri, the Kosovo minister of local self-government] once said, ‘Vedat is 99 percent American, but he is one percent Albanian, and it’s that one percent that brought him back.’”

Gashi attended schools in the Bronx and in Westchester, N.Y., before coming to Connecticut College, where he majored in international relations. He says it was at CC that he learned to lead.

“Being the governor of a dorm, leading weekly dorm meetings, being in SGA, and being captain of a sport actually had some real-world impact on me, even though I didn’t realize it at the time.”

Gashi also served as a young alumni trustee after graduation and considers the experience a valuable one. “I still get great advice from some of the people I met on the board.”

The considerations for conducting a meeting are the same, he says, whether you’re discussing new rugby uniforms or small town governance in a new state: you must find a way to get everyone involved, and you must get results.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t enticed by things like title, salary and a nice office,” said Gashi, whose project in Kosovo is funded by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. “But I feel really fortunate to have a position where I can do something exciting and rewarding that helps other people. You don’t get a lot of situations like this.”

Gashi admits that it is humbling to return to the small village where he was born. “The roads aren’t paved; there is no Internet; schools are in disrepair. ... If my family had stayed, there is no chance I would have gotten the education I did or have the opportunities before me.

“There is that old saying, ‘To whom much is given, much is expected.’ I take that to heart.”


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