Meet the 2018 Presidential Fellows

The 29th Presidential Fellowship cohort was selected for their outstanding achievements as undergraduate students and promise as graduate students and university ambassadors.

image
GW President Thomas J. LeBlanc (fourth from left) introducing the 2018 Presidential Fellows: (L-R) Inigo Acosta, Haley Gray, Tereese Smith, Kalpana Vissa and Camila Tapias (Photos: Logan Werlinger/GW Today)
May 11, 2018

By Briahnna Brown

The George Washington University has announced the five graduating seniors selected for the 2018-20 Presidential Fellowship cohort.

Inigo Acosta, Haley Gray, Tereese Smith, Kalpana Vissa and Camila Tapias will participate in the two-year program while—with the help of a stipend that covers up to 42 academic credit hours—earning a master’s degree from GW and gaining professional experience through an administrative placement in a GW school or department. The fellows hail from Bangkok, Tennessee, Georgia, Colorado and Colombia, and all plan on making an impact in the world while giving back to the university after furthering their education at GW.

As the first fellowship cohort selected under GW President Thomas J. LeBlanc, the fellows will continue the legacy of the more than 135 fellowship alumni who came before them.

"I am delighted to join in welcoming and congratulating the Presidential Fellowship 2018-20 cohort," Dr. LeBlanc said. "I look forward to getting to know them and to their contributions to the university's efforts to seek preeminence in all that we do, as they build on the Presidential Fellowship program's 28-year legacy at GW."

The Presidential Fellowship program selects high-achieving GW seniors and allows them to serve as ambassadors for the GW community through academic, personal and professional development. During the program, fellows actively engage in service and university events and committees while developing relationships with the GW and D.C. communities

"The incoming Presidential Fellowship cohort once again represents an outstanding cross-section of the graduating class," said Robert Snyder, executive director of planning and outreach in Student Affairs, who oversees the fellowship program as program director. 

"The Fellowship Advising Team, our faculty and staff Preceptors, and our alumni community are all excited to work with them to guide their academic and professional development and to advance the pillars of the program and the university."

Take a look at how the cohort plans to utilize the Presidential Fellowship:

image

Inigo Acosta
B.A. International Affairs, Elliott School of International Affairs

  1. Hometown:
    I was born and raised in Bangkok, Thailand, and went to high-school in Manila, Philippines. I consider both places equally home.
  2. Pursuing:
    Master of Arts, anthropology, Columbian College of Arts and Sciences
  3. What is your dream job? Why?
    My dream job is to open and direct a museum of culture and history in my Filipino family’s home island of Mindanao. Mindanao is an island filled with rich cultural diversity, but has sadly been plagued by decades of war. A museum would promote cultural understanding, which I see as an important step to promoting peace. 
  4. What are you hoping to gain from the fellowship?
    From the fellowship, I am hoping to deepen my relationships with professors through research initiatives that can benefit the university and to increase the pool of scholarship in important fields.
  5. Is there a moment in your GW experience that you think has significantly impacted you?
    My first time driving by the National Mall with my dad. I know its corny and cliché, but there really is something about the monuments at night. Now, even after four years, I still get a chill whenever I return to D.C. and drive past the monuments. It's a reminder, not only of all that can be achieved in this city, but how far that wide-eyed, skinny freshman has come, and how much more there is left to do.

image

Haley Gray
B.A. Human Services and Social Justice, Columbian College of Arts and Sciences

  1. Hometown:
    Nashville, Tenn.
  2. Pursuing:
    Master of Accountancy, School of Business
  3. What is your dream job? Why?
    My dream job would be to work as a CFO of a community-based nonprofit. Through my major and my volunteer work, I realized that many nonprofits struggle to implement their powerful mission because they lack the funding and management. I want to be able to help facilitate the vision of a nonprofit that works with community members.
  4. What are you hoping to gain from the fellowship?
    I am hoping to gain professional development and mentorship. This, along with my education, will teach me the skills needed to be successful within my field and career. 
  5. Is there a moment in your GW experience that you think has significantly impacted you?
    There has been a cumulation of moments that impacted me, specifically, my service-learning experience. Because of my Human Service and Social Justice (HSSJ) classes, I spent the past four years volunteering at local nonprofits. One of which was Life Pieces to Masterpieces. Volunteering at Life Pieces taught me a lot about myself but also shaped my career goals and hopes for the future. I was able to fully understand the field, and that caused me to shift my career to the business side while holding onto the values and core ideas of HSSJ. 

image

Tereese Smith
B.A. International Affairs, Elliott School of International Affairs

  1. Hometown:
    Lawrenceville, Ga.
  2. Pursuing:
    Master of Public Policy, Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration
  3. What is your dream job? Why?
    Throughout my undergraduate experience, I have had the opportunity to learn about the importance of diversity, inclusion and development. Currently, I am finishing my thesis, which is an examination of extractive industry processes through the lenses of corporate social responsibility measures and government responses. My dream job is to work within the private sector to increase the availability and efficacy of public-private partnerships in developing nations, specifically those relating to economic mobility. I believe that there are a lot of opportunities for private companies to improve the communities where they operate, which not only positively impacts the economies of the countries they work in, but also impacts the lives of the individuals who work in or in relation to their industry. 
  4. What are you hoping to gain from the fellowship?
    While serving as a Presidential Fellow for the next two years, I hope to be able to gain experience communicating the views of students to GW staff—especially the voices of the underrepresented—so that I can help to enhance the GW student experience for all.  
  5. Is there a moment in your GW experience that you think has significantly impacted you?
    Studying abroad had always excited me, even before I began college. Last spring, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Spain for a semester. I made some amazing friends, but there were parts of my time abroad that were not ideal. The GW study abroad office allowed me to discuss my time in Spain and to work toward ensuring that other students were prepared to study abroad and aware of the GW resources available to them. The experience not only helped me to be more capable of speaking for myself, but it also showed me the importance of sharing experiences and ideas with others. Furthermore, it highlighted GW's commitment to improving the lives of students, even outside of the U.S. 

image

Kalpana Vissa
B.S. Public Health, Milken Institute School of Public Health

  1. Hometown:
    Fort Collins, Colo.
  2. Pursuing:
    Master of Public Health, community-oriented primary care, Milken Institute School of Public Health 
  3. What is your dream job? Why?
    I don't exactly know the title of my dream job, but I am an aspiring public health professional interested in bridging clinical medicine and public health. My medical and scientific interests marry well with community health and advocacy work. I want to have a large-scale impact on my community, both inside and outside of the clinical setting.  Part of improving health outcomes involves directly including the target population through community health work. Giving ownership and responsibility to our patients will not only humanize them, but also give them the courage they need to take care of themselves. Public health permits doctors to practice clinical medicine more effectively and holistically. 
    I am inspired by doctors like Rishi Manchanda, who believes that his job is not just about treating a patient’s symptoms, but about addressing the “upstream” factors such as household conditions, diet and occupation status to get to the root cause of what exactly is making a patient ill. To improve the effectiveness and quality of medical care, we must focus our attention on public health issues that exist outside of the medical exam room.
  4. What are you hoping to gain from the fellowship?
    As a fellow, I desire to remain a bridge between university administration and the student body. I hope to build off of my undergraduate career to not only become experienced and knowledgeable in the field of public health, but also to increase my service to GW. I await the opportunity to connect and collaborate with my fellow colleagues. Entry-level jobs or traditional graduate programs are typical paths for recent college graduates, but the Presidential Fellowship is unique because it is greater than the sum of both these options. I cannot wait to realize its potential. 
  5. Is there a moment in your GW experience that you think has significantly impacted you?
    My four years at GW have been transformative, but if I had to pick just one part of it, it would be my role as a resident advisor. Being an RA for the last three years, and particularly my first year in the role, has been the most challenging, yet rewarding role of my college experience. Through this job, I have met hundreds of unique individuals who have shaped me to be who I am. I am forever grateful for my staff, my supervisors and my residents. 

image

Camila Tapias
B.A. Organizational Sciences, Columbian College of Arts and Sciences

  1. Hometown:  
    Bogota, Colombia
  2. Pursuing:
    Master of Public Administration, Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration
  3. What is your dream job? Why?
    I really want to work for the Organization of American States (OAS)—that's one of my top choices right now. I'm very passionate about social justice, and for me, it's important to stay engaged with my country. I think that with them, they do a lot of peace projects and in terms of human rights and democracy, and I think that's important. As a country, there's a lot of poverty and things that we're struggling with after more than 50 years of violence. I don't know exactly what I would be doing, but I would like to work for them. That would be amazing just being here in the United States and also staying engaged with Colombia. 
  4. What are you hoping to gain from the fellowship?
    There's different pillars of the fellowship. I know that professional development is one of the main pillars of this program, and I know in terms of service and being an ambassador for the university, just getting this experience for these two years and actually getting exposed to working is something I look forward to. Also, that experience of being a grad student. I've been here for four years, and I was on the basketball team. I was a part of something, I was a part of the team, but now I'll be a part of another team, and I'm very excited about that.
  5. Is there a moment in your GW experience that you think has significantly impacted you?
    I would say—I know this might sound a little dramatic—I came here to play basketball and further my education, but after my freshman year here at GW I needed knee surgery. This impacted me in terms of how I was recovering for my team and my dreams to play, but that surgery and that recovery, that was like a year-long recovery. I think that really helped me in terms of being more resilient and relentless with what I wanted to do, and in this case, that was on the court. That helped me in that sometimes you will have obstacles and different struggles, it's just how you're going to respond to a situation. I just think about it in general. That made me stronger mentally, and of course physically. After I overcame this obstacle I was playing, and we became champions. 

image

Presidential Fellows Haley Gray, Camila Tapias, Tereese Smith, Inigo Acosta and Kalpana Vissa.

Student Life

News

Introducing the 2016 Presidential Administrative Fellows

May 11, 2016
A cohort of five undergraduate students selected for their commitment to scholarship, leadership and service.

25th Cohort of Presidential Administrative Fellows Selected

May 12, 2014
Six high-achieving graduating seniors will gain career experience and pursue master’s degrees at GW.