Class of 2023
- Areas of Study: Computer Science
- Hometown: Atherton, CA
Grace Connors is passionate about applying technology to help the vulnerable.
She is in the first cohort of Notre Dame’s new BA in Computer Science degree with a double major in Peace Studies. She hopes to gain skills in each field to use her passion for coding to find ways to learn from past peace agreements and improve future conflict resolution. Outside of the classroom, Grace serves as a eucharistic minister for her dorm, a campus tour guide, and recently joined hall council for her sophomore year.
In high school, Grace co-founded GirlTech, a club she started with her sister to support girls in STEM fields. In addition to planning bi-weekly meetings and a monthly speaker series of powerful women in tech, she also worked on a Design Thinking workshop with a Stanford professor and session on mental health and tech for the school’s annual Social Justice Teach-In. In addition to leading GirlTech, Grace was the Managing Editor of Business for the school newspaper and put an emphasis on starting conversations on campus, including topics such as body image and race. For her commitment to Sacred Heart Society, work on two school service trips, and leadership on the Prayer and Worship Committee, at graduation Grace earned the Sacred Heart Preparatory Light Blue Ribbon for Goal 1: A Personal and Active Faith in God, one of the highest honors a senior can receive.
Recently, Grace has worked with her family on the creation of the Connors Family Foundation for Catholic Activities, where she serves as a board member. The focus of the foundation is to help the Church and the poor through creative use of technology and startup methodologies.
Bingyu (Lily) Deng
- Areas of Study: Finance
- Hometown: Shanghai, China
Bingyu Deng is a Hesburgh-Yusko and Greater China Scholar from Shanghai, China. She attended the High School Affiliated to Fudan University. She intends to major in Finance and is fluent in Mandarin.
Lily sang soprano for regional school choir. She founded the DreamBuilder Club to donate computers and build a flushing toilet for rural students. She interned at Fanqie Capital Co., Ltd. and at the Global Student Success Institute. Additionally, she worked as a cashier and shopping guide at Heyjuice Beverage Shop.
- Areas of Study: Economics
- Hometown: Saint Charles, IL
Ryan Kelly is a Hesburgh-Yusko scholar from St. Charles, IL. He attended St. Charles East High School. He is currently an Economics Major.
In high school, Ryan was a teen advocate, chef, and gardener for Fox Valley Food for Health. He also served as a Confirmation Leader for St. Patrick parish. He showed leadership as captain for the St. Charles East math, volleyball, and golf teams and worked as an AP Chemistry Lab aide and math and science tutor. Additionally, he worked as a courtesy clerk at the grocery store and a server's assistant at a restaurant.
During his time at Notre Dame, Ryan has volunteered at the Robinson Learning Center to help prepare young students for college and career options. This included course direction, help with standardized testing strategies, and other general discernment.
- Areas of Study: Applied & Computational Mathematics & Statistics
- Hometown: Phoenix, AZ
Cameron MacKenzie is studying Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics with a concentration in Biology at Notre Dame. He is interested in using statistical modeling and machine learning in areas of genetics, tissue modeling, and epidemiology. He is currently involved with independent research on a computer vision algorithm to classify types of skin cancers. He is also interested in Latin American studies, education, and music.
In high school, Cameron traveled to El Salvador, where he studied the Salvadoran Civil War in the rural province of Morazán. He organized and spoke at fundraisers as a board member of Family to Family foundation in Phoenix, raising over $30,000 to support education of children in rural El Salvador. He has also taught English to refugees preparing for U.S. citizenship, volunteered numerous times with asylum seekers at the U.S.–Mexico border, and served for two years as a professional piano accompanist for a choir in Scottsdale, AZ. In his first year at Notre Dame, Cameron volunteered weekly at local elementary school Lincoln Primary Center, and he currently serves as commissioner for this program in Duncan Hall. He also serves as cantor for Sunday masses in Duncan Hall each week.
Cameron plans to continue his education after Notre Dame by attending medical school.
Thapelo (Sasi) Masasa
- Areas of Study: Computer Science
- Hometown: Mohlaes Hoek, Lesotho
Thapelo Masasa is a 20 year old student from Mohale's Hoek, Lesotho. He is interested in majoring in computer science because he is fascinated by AI and wants to explore more about what it is, what more capabilities it can have and how we can benefit from it without making irreversible mistakes with it. He intends on going to graduate school for a PhD in computer Science.
One of his best experiences include being part of the robotic football society since he feels like that is an example of how to implement AI. During his spare time Masasa plays soccer or chess and he explains that these have been his hobbies from a very young age.
- Areas of Study: Computer Science
- Hometown: Nairobi, Kenya
Gerry Migwi is a Hesburgh-Yusko Scholar from Nairobi, Kenya. He is an alumnus of the African Leadership Academy and intends to major in Computer Science. Gerry speaks fluent Swahili and Kikuyu.
Currently, Gerry is working on a project backed by the Notre Dame Idea Center where members can access unsecured loans while earning interest on savings through the Ethereum Blockchain.
Gerry was the lead programmer for the African Blockchain Initiative, Chief Technology Officer for Open Farm, and IT representative for the ALA Student Government. He worked as a teacher at Kihara Day School and built homemade filtration systems for children's homes. He also worked on his family farm as a herdsman.
- Areas of Study: Electrical Engineering
- Hometown: Mount Pleasant, SC
Mackenzi is a rising sophomore from Mt. Pleasant, SC. She is majoring in Electrical Engineering, and is considering a minor in Energy Studies. She is very interested in the energy crisis, specifically how renewable energy can be implemented on a large scale.
In all of her endeavors, Mackenzi has been led by her desire to help others. One of her social justice passions is drug abuse, as she witnessed a close family member struggle through addiction. In high school, Mackenzi served as a videographer and speaker for Wake Up: Carolina and The Edge, two organizations dedicated to fighting the opioid epidemic in her community of Charleston, SC. She hopes to get involved with an organization fighting the opioid epidemic in the South Bend area in the coming year. She also combined her passions for engineering and service in high school through the Engineering Club. Mackenzi and her teammates designed, built, and tested a sock aid for elderly people with arthritis.
In her first year at Notre Dame, Mackenzi became involved in the Society of Women Engineers and worked as a Student Manager for the Notre Dame Hockey Team. She also pursued her athletic interests and played interhall flag football, volleyball, and field hockey for the Notre Dame Field Hockey Club.
For her Wilderness Leadership summer, Mackenzi spent a week canoeing in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota. For her Social Justice summer, she was planning on volunteering at the Pademelon Park Wildlife Refuge in Bicheno, Tasmania to help the injured animal population of Australia. However, due to the coronavirus outbreak, this was cancelled.
Ese-Onosen (Ese) Omoijuanfo
- Areas of Study: Neuroscience and Behavior
- Hometown: Shaker Heights, OH
Ese-Onosen Omoijuanfo studies Neuroscience and Behavior. She hopes to become more involved with medical policy. She volunteers at Memorial Hospital and with the medical mission department of the non-profit Glean Ministries.
Her academic interests include medicine, science, philosophy and International development. Ese-Onosen is pursuing research in the chemistry department involving a protein, Tau, that aggregates in the brain and leads to Alzheimers.
Before attending The University of Notre Dame Ese-Onosen was homeschooled as her family traveled internationally. As a result she developed a passion for Medicine and service and speaks Romanian and French. She volunteered with her family's non-profit as manager of the social media department, helped run medical missions overseas, supported a group for single mothers, and raised awareness and collected donations for a Christmas exchange for children. She also conducted research at Case Western University and won the 2018 Mark Smith Outstanding Research Performance prize for the Case Western Reserve NIH sponsored YES program.
- Areas of Study: Computer Engineering
- Hometown: Gitega, Burundi
Emie-Elvire Sabumukama is a Hesburgh-Yusko scholar and a rising sophomore from Gitega, Burundi. She is passionate about contributing to the development of her home country. In high school, Emie explored her dancing hobby by enrolling in a traditional dance team and performing in various ceremonies. She was also a choirmaster in her high school choir and served as choir president for a year. She is fluent in Kirundi, French, and English, and speaks a little bit of Mandarin.
After her high school graduation, Emie was admitted to Bridge2Rwanda, a highly competitive gap-year program that helps talented students from Rwanda, Burundi, DRC, and South Sudan attend international colleges so that they can return to contribute to the transformation of their communities. At Bridge2Rwanda, Emie spent a minimum of 60 hours per week studying English, learning advanced reading, research, and writing. She was also appointed as the Hospitality Chair, where she was in charge of organizing venues and delegating the writing of thank you notes for visitors. She volunteered at Umucyo W’Ejo where she assisted street children in their societal reintegration. She was also part of the Toastmasters club where she worked on her public speaking skills. Through Bridge2Rwanda, Emie was also recently selected as a LeFrak-Friedberg scholar.
At Notre Dame, Emie is involved with the African Student Association, where she continues to gain insights about the African continent. She intends to spend her first summer interning at the Center for Civic Innovation to learn about the engineering work that goes into solving problems in the South Bend community, hoping to apply that knowledge in her course of study and, ultimately, her home country.
- Areas of Study: Management Consulting
- Hometown: Louisville, KY
Riya Shah is a Management Consulting and Political Science double major with a minor in Constitutional Studies. She hopes to improve the political climate at Notre Dame through her role as Director of National Engagement on the Executive Cabinet of Student Government. She is also the Treasurer for College Democrats, CFO of BridgeND, and on the ND Votes task-force. Riya has worked on campaigns for the KY Governor Andy Beshear, Presidential Candidate Pete Buttigieg, and is now working on Amy McGrath's campaign against Mitch McConnell for the US Senate. Her academic interests include politics, law, and economics.
In high school, Riya founded Project Thrive to raise funds to provide safe home environments for mothers suffering from opioid addiction. She developed her passion for politics and civic engagement when the KY public school system faced the rescission of teacher pensions which led to weeks of teacher strikes. Subsequently, she began working with Attorney General Andy Beshear's campaign to unseat the incumbent governor and promote public school education. Riya was a three-year Varsity golf captain and also captained her school's national successful debate team. She graduated from DuPont Manual High School as valedictorian of her class.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Riya was planning to spend her Social Justice summer in Madrid, Spain working at "La Fundación Pro Bono España", a non-profit Pro Bono Foundation which serves to coordinate, promote, and provide free legal aid provided by legal professionals to non-profit entities which have legal needs but no resources to resolve them.
Thomas Antonio (Thomas) Silva Gonzaga
- Areas of Study: Electrical Engineering
- Hometown: Cruz das Almas, Brazil
Thomas Gonzaga is a Hesburgh-Yusko Scholar from Cruz das Almas, Brazil. He is majoring in Electrical Engineering and plans on minoring in Energy Studies. Thomas speaks English and Portuguese. His academic interests include energy, sustainability, and education.
Because of his passion for research, Thomas interned at Bahia’s Federal University Optic Properties Lab, where he worked towards developing a method of detecting soil pests that affected plantations of several commodities in Brazil’s northeast, where he was born. He also interned at the Nuclear Physics Institute, where he studied methods of developing semiconductor materials for solar cells. This experience led to his current interest in majoring in Electrical Engineering with a minor in Energy Studies, as he desires to research novel renewable energy technology that could make clean energy sources more affordable in his country.
Before coming to Notre Dame, Thomas was also involved in educational initiatives. As a part of Brazilians in Action for International Education, he mentored and assisted underprivileged Brazilian students who desired to pursue an education abroad. He is also very interested in soccer, which led him to become a social media manager at PL Brasil, a sports blog that publishes news about the English soccer league, the Premier League.
- Areas of Study: Biological Sciences
- Hometown: Houston, TX
Meghan is a Biological Sciences major with a minor in Anthropology, interested in how both fields create a more holistic picture of the human person. To gain a more personal understanding of this interest, Meghan remains passionate about community engagement. On campus, she shares her enthusiasm for culture by serving as Notre Dame Texas Club Treasurer, holding two commissioner positions in Lewis Hall Council, and working as a tour guide. To help mitigate the effects of neurodegenerative disease and build formative intergenerational relationships, Meghan volunteers with the Brain Exercise Initiative where she uses math, reading, and writing classes as a form of cognitive development for the elderly. Meghan will soon continue to investigate neurodegenerative effects in the Hyde Lab studying retinal regeneration using the zebrafish model.
In high school, Meghan remained active in her communities by serving as Vice President of NHS, a member of student council, executive leader of Campus Ministry, captain of the basketball team, and by volunteering at the Houston Special Olympics and local animal shelter. Integrating her passion for service and desire to better understand mental disabilities, Meghan helped found OutLoud Dance Studio, a dance program for children with special needs. Through this venture, she gained a deeper appreciation for simple human interaction and the true power of educational “play.”
To again implement the impact of education, Meghan planned to spend her Social Justice summer in Kisumu, Kenya working at a primary school who caters to the marginalized families and orphaned children of the area. Specifically, Meghan aspired to develop curriculum for the Early Childhood Development center and compile anthropological observations of the city’s traditions. However, due to the implications of COVID-19, Meghan plans to pursue this project again next summer.
- Areas of Study: Political Science
- Hometown: Hauula, HI
Being born and raised on the island of Oahu, Kayla grew up immersed in a culture built on love, community, and the spirit of "aloha". Her upbringing in Hawaii has cultivated a strong passion for service and her commitment to building community, things that she hopes to embrace as a student at the University of Notre Dame.
Kayla has had the opportunity to engage in a variety of local and international volunteer opportunities throughout the course of her life. She has a particular passion for working with youth, and has volunteered with Kahuku Elementary School's A+ Program, served as one of her school's first peer mentors, and organized youth programming for a public library. In June of 2018, Kayla spent a month working on two school builds with the All Hands and Hearts Organization in Jicarero, Mexico. She was also involved in cheerleading, show choir, and was a team captain for their school's We the People team.
At the University of Notre Dame, Kayla is a Political Science and American Studies double major, with an Education, Schooling, and Society minor. She is involved with several performing arts groups on campus, including TROOP ND and Transpose, and will be co-president of the Hawaii Club for the 2020-2021 academic year. Kayla traveled to Antigua, Guatemala over spring break to work on a house-build with La Asociación Nuestros Ahijados. She is hoping to volunteer with the Robinson Community Center during the upcoming year.
Ntandoyakhe (Ntando) Tshuma
- Areas of Study: Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
- Hometown: Bulawayo, Zimbabwe
Ntandoyakhe Tholani Tshuma is a Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering major. His passion lies in the Biomedical Engineering field where he aims to develop better medical devices and to improve the accessibility of health services on the African continent. He is specifically interested in the development of cost-effective and efficient medical devices and the development of effective public health policies.
At Notre Dame, Ntando has been an active member of the ChemECar design club and the African Students Association. In ChemECar he has been working on developing a model for a gas pressure powered car that does not emit any greenhouse gases.
Before Notre Dame, Ntando went to the African Leadership Academy where he was one of the designers in the African BlockChain initiative. He is a strong believer in the development of sustainable systems of accountability within government systems, which is what fueled the creation of the BlockChain based voting system at the African leadership Academy. Ntando was also the chair of the Electoral Supervisory Council at the African Leadership Academy. Ntando founded Enriching Young Lives to help underprivileged children in his community access school resources and learn how to create sustainable wealth. Additionally, he served as the logistics and operations manager for Smartpreneurs, who participated and made it to the top 20 of the CFO CharterQuest competition.
- Areas of Study: Anthropology
- Hometown: Somers, NY
Meredith Wilson is a sophomore from Somers, NY studying Anthropology and Global Affairs. During her first year at Notre Dame, she was fortunate to work with the Department of Gender Relations as a member of FUEL, the branch of Student Government for first-years. She is thrilled to continue this involvement next year as Student Government’s Director of Gender Relations. Meredith has also served as the Chief Outreach Officer for BridgeND, as well as a member of the Outreach Team for BridgeUSA. Additionally, she has enjoyed working with the Gender Relations Center as a FIRE Starter focusing on Gender Identity & Intersectionality student programming. She enjoyed performing in Heathers the Musical, an FTT senior thesis project production, in the fall and participating in Students Consulting for Nonprofit Organizations in the spring.
- Areas of Study: Business and Public Policy
- Hometown: Midland, MI
As a business and public policy student, Justin Witt dreams of working with social entrepreneurs or established companies to tackle environmental and socio-economic challenges on a global scale. Believing that the innovation of the private sector, given the proper public sector partners, can unlock the economic incentive in social responsibility, Justin has pursued many endeavors focused on social entrepreneurship.
Outside of his studies, he is an entrepreneur with a track record of leading social-impact startups including Storybox Books, his current education-focused social venture founded in 2015. Under his leadership, Storybox Books has expanded its operations to nine states and three countries, donating over 8,000 books through partnerships with 14 schools and NGOs. In high school, Justin was Vice President of Midland County Youth Action Council, a youth-led endowment which allocates over $75,000 in community grants each year. Furthermore, Justin earned his Eagle Scout award, directing a construction project at a local family center.
At Notre Dame, he is involved with Unleashed Social Ventures, Student International Business Council, ND Venture Capital Club, and the ND IDEA Center. Furthermore, Justin is passionate about civic engagement. He has volunteered with statewide political campaigns and explored the public policy field as an intern at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, where he used data analysis to pursue development and innovation goals of the organization. In the future, he hopes to combine his passions for entrepreneurship and politics by working at the intersection of the public and private sectors.