July 04, 2013 12:00AM
On Thursday, Alisa Zlatanic celebrated her first Fourth of July as a U.S. citizen, just a week after participating in a naturalization ceremony in Kansas City.
“I never anticipated I would feel different. But after that ceremony last Friday, something kind of changed in me. It was very meaningful,” Zlatanic said with a broad smile.
Andy Myers, executive director of the Kansas Polymer Research Center at Pittsburg State University, said the change in Zlatanic has been noticed. He and Zlatanic’s colleagues at the KPRC held a surprise party to celebrate her new status on July 3.
Zlatanic, a research scientist at the KPRC, has been in the U.S. for 14 years. A native of Serbia, she earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from the University of Belgrade. She conducted research and taught at that university for six years before accepting an appointment as a research associate at the KPRC in 1999.
At PSU, Zlatanic’s research is focused on bio-based polymers. She was one of the recipients of the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award in 2007.
Zlatanic said when she first came to PSU, she didn’t plan on staying a long time and certainly hadn’t entertained the thought of becoming a U.S. citizen.
“I thought I would be here maybe two or three years,” she said.
As the years went by, however, Zlatanic found satisfaction in the work and the community.
“I’m doing what I went to school for,” Zlatanic said. “It is interesting and creative.”
Zlatanic said she was one of 88 people from more than 30 countries who became U.S. citizens at last week’s naturalization ceremony. The diversity in the group impressed her and she said the federal judge went out of his way to make them all feel welcome.
“He said all Americans are immigrants,” Zlatanic said. “On one side of me there was a woman from Bosnia and on the other, a man from Iraq. Such great diversity -- it was wonderful!”