Stanford senior wins 2017 Marshall Scholarship for graduate study

Alina Utrata, a senior majoring in history and the law, with a minor in human rights, will pursue a master’s degree in conflict transformation and social justice at Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland as a 2017 Marshall Scholar.

Looking back, Alina Utrata can pinpoint the moment she started believing in the power of international justice to address the legacy of human rights abuses and mass atrocities in post-conflict societies.

At the time, Utrata, who was today named a 2017 Marshall Scholar, was conducting summer research in Bosnia, while the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia at The Hague was trying Bosnian wartime leaders Ratko Mladić and Radovan Karadžić for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Alina Petra Utrata, Marshall Scholar

Senior Alina Utrata will pursue a master’s degree in conflict transformation and social justice at Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland as a 2017 Marshall Scholar. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

“I was interviewing people in Bosnia about their responses to the trials,” Utrata said. “And I remember someone telling me: ‘I don’t know if justice means someone who has killed so many people is sentenced to life. But it is important because someone has said this man is responsible. Otherwise it feels like someone can sacrifice me with no consequences.’ These feelings matter to people, years and generations later. People who feel wronged will never forget it, and they will make sure their children never forget it either.”

Utrata is one of 40 young Americans awarded 2017 Marshall Scholarships, which pay for graduate-level study in the United Kingdom in any field of study.

The scholarship was established to strengthen the enduring relationship between the British and American peoples, their governments and their institutions, and to enhance the intellectual and personal growth of scholars. The scholarship is named for former U.S. Secretary of State and Army Gen. George Marshall, who formulated the Marshall Plan to aid economic development in Western Europe after World War II.

As a Marshall Scholar, Utrata plans to pursue a master’s degree in conflict transformation and social justice at Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland.

“At Queen’s University Belfast, the Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice is focused on transitional justice from a grassroots perspective, emphasizing legal and political reform in tandem with cultural and social processes for healing society,” she wrote in her application for the scholarship. “This intersection between law, society and post-conflict issues is precisely what I want to focus on.”

Utrata said she felt “incredibly honored and humbled” to receive the scholarship, and excited about the prospect of continuing to study post-conflict issues as a graduate student.

“It is always a privilege to be able to live and work in other communities, and to learn from and about real people’s experiences,” she said. “I hope I can do this opportunity justice through future hard work.”

Studying international justice at Stanford

At Stanford, Utrata, 21, is majoring in history and the law. She is the first Stanford student to pursue a minor in human rights, a new interdisciplinary minor launched this year.

She is enrolled in the interdisciplinary honors program of the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law, which bridges the worlds of scholarship, policy and practice to understand and advance the conditions for just, democratic and sustainable development around the world.

Her honor’s thesis is “Society and Memory Under International Justice Regimes: The Impact of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia on Bosnia.”

For the last four years, Utrata’s studies have focused on situations of mass atrocity, laws of war, humanitarian intervention and transitional justice. She is specifically interested in how international justice mechanisms affect societies’ collective historical memory in the aftermath of conflict.

Norman Naimark, a professor of history at Stanford, said Utrata is a wonderful student.

“Alina has brilliantly followed up on a passion for human rights since she was a freshman, taking classes on genocide and human rights, working with an NGO in Bosnia, visiting and monitoring the international courts in The Hague and Cambodia, and interning with a human rights organization at the U.S. Department of State,” Naimark said.

“Her research and writing so far on the reception of the judgments of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in Bosnia have been exceptional and will culminate, one can be certain, in an outstanding honors thesis. The Marshall Scholarship at Queen’s University in Belfast is a natural next step in Alina’s remarkable mastery of this aspect of the history of international law.”

Beth Van Schaack, a visiting professor in human rights at Stanford Law School, said she was thrilled to hear Utrata had won the scholarship.

“Alina has already made tremendous contributions to the global community while here at Stanford – from her scholarly research on the impact of the international tribunals in the former Yugoslavia and Cambodia on victims’ lived experience of justice, to her launching of an online campaign, Go Fund Justice, to crowdfund the International Criminal Court’s Trust Fund for Victims,” Van Schaack said.

“Although Alina’s academic interests have often mired her in the worst of human nature, she retains a genuine faith in humanity and an unwavering commitment to leave a positive impact on the world.”

Utrata is a 2016-17 Hume Humanities Honors Fellow, an honor granted to eight Stanford seniors writing honors theses.

At Stanford, Utrata has been involved in the WSD HANDA Center for Human Rights and International Justice, which supports and helps improve the work of domestic courts, international tribunals and human rights commissions through research and international initiatives. Utrata is currently a member of its student advisory board. During the summer of 2016, she served as an intern monitoring the genocide trials in Cambodia. She described the experience on her blog, On the Map. Currently, she is a student assistant at the center.

Utrata, who has been a member of the Stanford Model United Nations Team since arriving on campus, has served as chair and secretary-general of the Stanford Model United Nations Conference for 600 high school delegates.

Future Marshall Scholars

If Stanford students are interested in overseas scholarships, including the Marshall Scholarship, or if Stanford faculty are interested in nominating students for such awards, they may contact Diane Murk, manager of the Overseas Resource Center, at, or John Pearson, director emeritus of the Bechtel International Center, at