The wild mushrooms that grow in Kosovo play such a significant role in the lives of Blerinda Veliu’s family that they inspire the decorations on their birthday cakes.
They’ve also been the family’s livelihood since the 1998-99 war in Kosovo that drove the Velius out of the Balkan country for a few months before they returned and began to collect, process and distribute wild mushrooms.
It’s something Veliu will continue to do when she returns to Kosovo following her December graduation from Colorado State University, where she’s taken part in the Impact MBA program.
“Now, we’re striving to build a network of farmers and bring these cultivation cultures that protect biodiversity and don’t put our wild species at risk,” she said. “After finishing up my Impact MBA, I feel like I have the right know-how, and my mindset has expanded so much when it comes to agriculture and sustainability in general.
“I’m so excited to go back and bring these concepts and find ways to integrate them from a bottom-up approach.”
Veliu is a Fulbright Scholar and member of a team of CSU students who recently won an international competition in offering humanitarian solutions to developing countries. She and other members of her Impact MBA cohort (Emily Bergman and Tess Lapray) also have launched a startup that will connect non-governmental organizations on the ground after natural disasters with the resources they need via a mobile app.
As if she’s not busy enough, Veliu and her sister — who is studying organic agriculture in Italy — have also launched a company that produces organic medicinal teas. She’ll continue that work after her graduation from CSU and her return back home after 14 months in Colorado.
In their own words
Q. What obstacles, if any, did you have to overcome to reach graduation?
My experience is a bit different from a national American experience in that I’m an international student and English is not my first language. I said this to my American friends: My first semester felt like I was running all the time, it was an unending sprint.
My challenges involved trying to get ahead in the educational system here and studying in another language that’s not my native Albanian. We also had some classes I’ve never had before.
But at the end of the day, it felt so rewarding.
Q. Speaking of rewarding, what was the most rewarding part of your CSU experience?
I think the most rewarding part was meeting the people in my cohort, even though my experience was different because of COVID-19. Because of that, it took more energy for us to connect because we wanted to respect the rules and keep each other safe.
“I think the most rewarding part was meeting the people in my cohort, even though my experience was different because of COVID-19.”
I met so many different people from so many different backgrounds and professional settings.
It’s almost the end of the program now, and every day we’re learning new things about each other.
Q. What is your advice to incoming students at CSU?
I would say to enter the program with an open mind, and know you’re going to meet the awesomest people in your life, that bring so many different perspectives!
And most importantly, I’d say they should prepare themselves for a great adventure.