Top Student Thrives in Presidential Leadership Program

A Record of Service Prepares Jolisse Gray ’23 for Future Career
Jolisse Gray

(BALTIMORE, Md.) – Jolisse Gray '23 has always been driven by service, and she found a way to marry it with her love for politics this summer. The rising junior at Notre Dame of Maryland University gained new mentors and honed her leadership skills in the Leadership + American Presidency academic internship program through The Fund for American Studies (TFAS) to launch a future career as a foreign service officer. 
“I want to help people, and that is the reason why I am studying international relations. This is truly my passion,” said Gray. “Going to Notre Dame means more to me than just getting a degree. I just want to be the best person that I can be, especially if that means assuming a leadership role where my skills are best suited.” 
Because of her record of service and leadership, including being the first NDMU student named a Newman Civic Fellow by Campus Compact, Gray earned a full scholarship to attend the eight-week summer program and live in Washington, DC, for a unique learning experience. 
TFAS, along with the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute, brings together students who are passionate about making a difference through leadership for an immersive look at lessons from the American presidency. With hands-on simulations and case studies, students examine some of the greatest leadership challenges in the history of our country. They hear from top elected officials, executives, and policymakers, as well as get behind-the-scenes briefings at the CIA, State Department, Capitol Hill, and embassies. The students also get placed in an internship in public policy, the nonprofit sector, or media. 
“Notre Dame has prepared me because of the lens through which I look at issues and how I approach people,” Gray said. “I would always be the first person who had my hand up. That's the same type of student that I am at Notre Dame. I would always ask the difficult questions because I have professors who push me and prepared me to ask those tough questions.” 

An international studies major, Gray interned as a research assistant with the Global Disinformation Index, which seeks to inform individuals, organizations, and companies about the risk of disinformation by using artificial intelligence, intelligence analysis, and traditional research methods. Learning coding skills this summer has introduced her to research techniques in the field of security, where she wants to focus her future career. She values connecting with new mentors, who are smoothing the path toward her goals. 

“Finding the right people with this program has been particularly important to me,” she said. “That’s what has enhanced experience. There were genuine people who I was paired with, who want to help me.” 

Established in 1895, Notre Dame of Maryland University (NDMU) is a private, Catholic institution in Baltimore, Maryland, with the mission to educate leaders to transform the world. Notre Dame has been named one of the best "Regional Universities North" by U.S. News & World Report.

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