Nicole Suveges, a Johns Hopkins University graduate
student in political science who was
working in Iraq while doing research for her dissertation,
was among four Americans killed in an
explosion June 24 in the offices of the District Council in
the critical Sadr City section of Baghdad.
Two U.S. soldiers, a State Department employee, an
Italian translator working for the Defense
Department and six Iraqis also were killed, according to
Suveges, 38, was in Iraq as a civilian political
scientist working in the Army's Human Terrain
System program, advising the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the
4th Infantry Division, according to
BAE Systems, the company that employed her. BAE said she
helped Army leaders in efforts to reduce
violence in Sadr City and rebuild local infrastructure.
Her knowledge and experience, including a previous
tour in Iraq as a civilian contractor and her
time as an Army reservist serving in Bosnia in the 1990s,
reportedly made her especially effective in
working to improve the lives of everyday Iraqis.
According to a report from the Human Terrain System,
Suveges was attending a meeting of the
District Advisory Council, which was scheduled to elect a
new chairman. The attack, HTS said, was
thought to have been carried out by " 'a special group'
believed to be Shia militia members acting in
contravention of a cease-fire order issued by Muqtada
Steve Fondacaro, HTS program manager, said, "Nicole
enthusiastically embraced the challenges
posed by working in a war zone, believing that social
scientists could make the greatest contribution at
the tactical level." In the last e-mail he received from
her, Fondacaro said, she wrote, "I love this
In a message sent to the university community upon
learning of Suveges' death, President
William R. Brody said, "Nicole was committed to using her
learning and experience to make the world a
better place, especially for people who have suffered
through war and conflict. In that, she
exemplifies all that we seek to do at Johns Hopkins: to use
knowledge for the good of humanity."
Mark Blyth, an associate professor of political science
and Suveges' primary faculty adviser,
said she came to Johns Hopkins early in the decade, took
her comprehensive examinations about two
years later and worked with Blyth for about two years as
managing editor of the Review of
International Political Economy.
At first, he said, she planned to write her doctoral
dissertation on how ideas move across
borders from society to society, exploring how radical
Islamic ideas filtered through Western
European mosques and how, in comparison, free market ideas
filtered through Eastern European think
tanks into policy-making.
After the outbreak of the war in Iraq, however,
Suveges changed her plans, Blyth said,
switching to a topic that had interested her since her
experience in Bosnia, where she worked in the
multinational SFOR/NATO Combined Joint Psychological
Operations Task Force. Her new research
focus, Blyth said, was the process of transition from an
authoritarian regime to democracy, and
especially how that process affects ordinary citizens.
In about 2006, Blyth said, Suveges spent a year in
Iraq as a civilian contractor and social
science adviser to the military and came back with public
opinion data to analyze for her dissertation.
Her current tour was expected to provide the final data she
needed to begin writing her thesis. Blyth
said he did not know how long she had intended to remain in
Iraq this time.
"She was a very bright, engaging, sweet person, very
intellectually curious," Blyth said shortly
after learning of his student's death. Like others in the
department, he was stunned by the news. "Two
hours ago, I thought she was fine, and I thought she was
going to come back and defend" her
dissertation, he said.
Other members of the Political Science Department also
described Suveges as extraordinarily
bright, kind and outgoing. She also was known as an active
citizen of the department, regularly
attending seminars and — in the words of one faculty
member — acting as a "magnet" for other graduate
students and helping to organize their activities. As a
former Army Reserve soldier and an older
student, she brought a different and valuable perspective
to the intellectual life of the department,
faculty members said.
Suveges grew up in Illinois, where reportedly she
attended Stevenson High School in
Lincolnshire and Mundelein High School in Mundelein. She
graduated from the University of Illinois at
Chicago in 1992 and earned a master's degree in
international affairs in 1998 from George Washington
Suveges' death was the third in a little over a year
of a member of the Johns Hopkins
community serving in Iraq. In the spring of 2007, Lt. Colby
Umbrell, a 2004 graduate, and Capt.
Jonathan Grassbaugh, class of 2003, both of the U.S. Army,
were killed in action there.
"Their deaths and Nicole's diminish us all," Brody
said. "But their lives — lives devoted to service
to others — honor us and our university. We are
better for their having been among us."