Gillian Miswardi '17 Receives International IDEA Essay Prize From Swedish Crown Princess
The anthropology major, who had never taken a political science course, taught herself about representative democracy to write the winning 6000-word essay while studying abroad at the University of Cambridge last year.
Junior anthropology major Gillian Miswardi had never taken a political science class, let alone written a political science paper, but she nonetheless decided to enter the 20th anniversary essay contest held by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) last spring. And she won.
"The length of the essay—6000 words—was unlike anything that I had done before and the topic was more in the realm of political science, rather than anthropology," said Miswardi, who was in the final term of her year abroad at the University of Cambridge at the time. "Nevertheless, I thought that I could learn something about democracy and political science by writing this essay. So I found the reading lists for the politics courses at Cambridge and used them as resources."
Her paper, "Does Representative Democracy Have a Future in This Era of Digital Media?" not only broadened her understandings of political science and democratic principles, but also beat out more than 40 other entries from around the world for the prize. Miswardi received her honor from H.R.H. Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden in the Parliament building at the Riksdag in Stockholm last week as part of the 20th anniversary celebration of International IDEA, an intergovernmental organization that supports sustainable democracy worldwide.
"It was quite surreal, I have to admit," she said. "I entered the competition without any expectation, so receiving an email telling me that I had won was surprising. I knew I had invested quite a bit of time to write the essay, but I thought that the knowledge that I had gained from reading about democracy was reward enough."
The guest list for the anniversary event included not only Swedish royalty, but also a long list of international dignitaries, such as former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjørn Jagland, and Speaker of the Swedish Parliament Urban Ahlin, all of whom Miswardi got to meet. She discussed the recent Singapore elections with Annan and received congratulations from Surin Pirsuwan, former secretary-general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
"Mr Annan told the Crown Princess that I intended to learn Swedish," says Miswardi, who has, indeed, been practicing her svenska this fall. "She laughed and wished me good luck."
Miswardi has been in Sweden since Sept. 1, for a six-month internship with International IDEA as part of her prize. So far she has been part of their democracy and gender team, working on future programs they hope to launch.
"Sweden has been great," she says. "I particularly like the idea of fika, which is a coffee break where everyone in the office gets to socialize together in the kitchen area. Each week a different department brings pastries or homemade food for the fika. It’s a great time to chat with people from different teams."
Miswardi, who also won the Annabelle Dixon Prize at Lucy Cavendish College during her time at Cambridge, is currently on leave from Haverford for the year due to her International IDEA internship. She plans to return to the College next fall to graduate with the Class of 2017.