Class of 2026

Herjok Panther Deng Agot

  • Areas of Study: Neuroscience
  • Hometown: Bor-Jonglei, South Sudan

Herjok Panther Deng Agot is a first generation student from South Sudan. He is a determined lifelong learner, who thrives in a collaborative environment. He is passionate about basketball and believes that this sport can bring peace to his politically unstable country someday. He was awarded the (MVP) title at ALA for his commitment, good sportsmanship, and great performance during Hall Cup Basketball games. He hopes to establish a community sports center  that will bring people together from across the country to compete in sports. He volunteered at a public hospital in a refugee camp in Uganda as an interpreter to help doctors communicate with patients. Through this, he learned a few tribal languages, like Acholi and Nuer. He is passionate about health sciences and is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience and Behavior at the University of Notre Dame. Panther is fascinated by the functioning of the human brain and how substances like alcohol influence it. He aspires to help create awareness about mental health and treatment in his community. Panther hopes to live his life as a servant leader of his community. 

Andrés Bravo

Andrés Bravo

  • Areas of Study: Finance
  • Hometown: Bogotá, Colombia

My name is Andres Bravo, and I was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania but raised in Bogota, Colombia since I was 3 years old. I had the privilege to attend one of the best schools in my country, the me Anglo Colombiano, which helped to form me into the individual I am today. Ever since I recall, I have been passionate about sports, which is why I have played competitive soccer, golf, tennis, and volleyball, focusing my past 3 years on playing golf nationals and ranking within the best 40 in my country. My interests extend from sports and economics, to helping my community through social service and projects. Growing in such an unequal country full of economic and social disparities, I learned to use the privilege of my education and financial situation to help others, as I live by the phrase “helping those in need should not be an act of kindness, but a demonstration of our true humanity”. I can characterize myself with 3 life pillars (study, sports, and social service) which have helped me grow into a balanced and empathic individual which is now doing everything he can to leave a footprint in his home country, Colombia. 

Maria Cowden

Maria Cowden

  • Hometown: Northville, Michigan

Maria Cowden is from Northville, Michigan studying Chemical Engineering. She graduated from Northville High School, where she founded a service club and an investigative magazine as well as participated in student government and the pom team. Maria branched out with writing for The Detroit News on social justice issues, developing a local organization to spread disability awareness. She was also a president and an avid member of her highschool’s branch of National Honors Society, the Model UN team, and the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program.

Maria’s passion for Marfan Syndrome awareness led her to partner with the non-profit the Marfan Foundation to research and implement the most effective ways to fundraise and spread awareness for the genetic disorder. She arranged awareness events and fundraisers near her school and provided the community with an opportunity to learn and support the underrepresented population. Her work with the community impacted her immensely and helped her realize her passion for service and advocacy within the realms of biology.

At Notre Dame, Maria hopes to get involved with reporting for The Observer, a member of RareND, SCNO, the Hesburg-Yusko Scholars program, and numerous engineering clubs. She looks forward to exploring the overlap of STEM and advocacy, excited to embrace all Notre Dame has to offer.

Saif Elmaleh

Saif Elmaleh

  • Areas of Study: Aerospace Engineering
  • Hometown: Belbeis, Sharkia, Egypt

Saif Elmaleh (Egypt) is an African Leadership Academy (ALA) graduate class of 2020 and a prospected Notre Dame student for a dual degree in Aerospace Engineering and Political Science. He aims to unlock the full potential of space exploration and use it to benefit humanity.

He studied Cambridge A-level Math, physics, and economics at ALA alongside African philosophy, writing and rhetoric, and entrepreneurial leadership. Further, he researched the possibility of Leveraging Space Exploration for Conflict Mapping and Management in the Model African Union (MAU) research class. Therefore, he moderated the topic debate in the capacity of the peace and security council chairman in ALA MAU for 15 students. Likewise, He developed his engineering modeling and simulation skills in the scientific research class using Ansys working on Wind Turbine Wing Design Optimization. Furthermore, he worked as a physics tutor for A-level Cambridge students. 

Additionally, Saif worked as a peer counselor, mentoring and offering psychological support for 12 first-year students adapting to ALA’s challenging environment through weekly meetings and hall activities. Moreover, he organized a three-day online summer leadership camp in Egypt for 27 students called ALA-BUILD-in-a-Box. Equally important, He is a volunteer in logicae science, an organization that aims to support the next generation of African scientific researchers.

Saif’s experience as an international student in many educational institutes and intercultural programs identifies him as a global citizen. He is fluent in Arabic and English, can work in a multicultural environment, and is an excellent communicator and leader.

Faiza Filali

Faiza Filali

  • Areas of Study: Political Science
  • Hometown: New Orleans, Louisiana

Faiza Filali is a Hesburgh-Yusko and Glynn scholar from New Orleans, Louisiana, with an intended major of Political Science and sub-major of Peace Studies. 
Faiza’s accomplishments include serving as president of Rho Kappa and an elected board member for NEHS, her student council’s executive board, and NAHS. Using these experiences, Faiza actively worked with several minority organizations, raising money and awareness for said programs. 
A competitive swimmer since youth, Faiza has an immense appreciation for the privilege of swimming and participation in the sport, both recreationally and competitively. As a result, Faiza worked as a water safety instructor and competitive swim coach throughout her high school career for children and adults.
In addition, Faiza utilized her passions for the pursuit of knowledge and education and equal opportunity to create a non-profit tutoring program set to assist students facing challenges as a result of disabilities, economic crisis, or other discriminating factors. The program specialized assisting students in improving grades and creating an understanding of how an individual learns best. 
At the University of Notre Dame, Faiza hopes to continue to pursue her love for linguistics, law, and her fascination with how the world’s various cultures interact and prosper with each other.

Gregory Gehring

Gregory Gehring

  • Areas of Study: Political Science
  • Hometown: Iron Ridge, WI

Greg grew up in Iron Ridge, WI, a small town about an hour north of Milwaukee. Greg’s interests include politics, government, justice, and activism which encouraged him to participate in various organizations while in highschool including student government, yearbook publications, local community efforts, and the United Way. As a United Way intern, Greg expanded access to prescription medications for low income communities and assisted in producing and presenting statistical data. Greg served his school community as Student Body President as well as Yearbook editor and his local community as Eagle Scout. In his free time, he enjoys playing Tennis, caddying, spending time outdoors, as well as listening to various artists and watching various shows, his favorite being Suits. Some accomplishments include achieving Eagle Scout, graduating as Valedictorian, generating $30,000+ in yearbook sales revenue, as well as various academic awards including the Kiwanis Hall of Fame induction for Natural Science. After graduating from the University of Notre Dame, he hopes to attend law school and practice corporate litigation in the future, while becoming involved in organizations such as the Innocence Project and local law clinics. 

Jane Henry-Naiho

Jane Henry-Naiho

  • Areas of Study: Biology
  • Hometown: Johannesburg, South Africa

Jane Henry-Naiho is a Hesburgh-Yusko Scholar originally born in Lagos, Nigeria but grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa. She is passionate about global health, refugee rights, and women's empowerment.

Her dream for a robust public health research sector in Africa led her to found her nonprofit, Once-A-Month. Since 2019, Once-A-Month has empowered refugee women and teenage girls in South Africa with access to over 40,000 period products and menstrual health education. Her drive to persistently advocate for menstrual justice is from her personal experiences with period poverty.

In 2022, Jane graduated from the African Leadership Academy. During her time there, she started a club called The Period Support Committee. The committee created the first-ever initiative that made menstrual products available in public bathrooms all over campus. Her club is still doing remarkable work in ensuring menstrual equity at the Academy as well as supporting underprivileged local communities with basic hygiene products.

At the University of Notre Dame, Jane hopes to apply theories from her Biology and Global Affairs classes, in addition to all resources at her disposal, to conduct numerous research and community outreach projects that will provide ethical and efficient solutions to Africa’s most pressing public health demands. 

Ava Hyde

Ava Hyde

  • Areas of Study: Political Science
  • Hometown: Oradell, NJ

Ava Hyde is a politically active, creative student invested in studying American democracy, global affairs and human rights, and the fine arts. She established her high school's first Student-led Diversity and Equity Committee, is a national AP and Merit Scholar, and a recipient of the Rotary Youth Leadership Award. She has studied classical ballet since age 6, performing with her local studio and as a supernumerary with the American Ballet Theater. In high school, she served as President of the Debate Team, earning the Varsity 1st place Speaker Award, and as Vice President of the Model UN team. She was a peer leader at her school, one of 60 chosen from 114 applicants, and guided first-year students by leading weekly meetings and organizing events such as Freshman Field Day. To contribute to her community, Ava volunteers with Nonprofit Westchester as a Government Relations Researcher as well as at Oasis: Haven for Women and Children in Paterson as a tutor and food drive coordinator. She has hands-on experience in politics, having interned with the Bergen Country Democratic Committee and volunteered with New Yorker Tedra Cobb's congressional campaign, and looks forward to continuing her study of politics at Notre Dame.

Malik Mashigo

Malik Mashigo

  • Areas of Study: Finance
  • Hometown: Johannesburg, South Africa

“Umuntu ngu muntu nga bantu.” - “I am because you are.” Born and raised in Ekurhuleni, east of Johannesburg, values that promote caring for one another as a community of relational personhood were instilled in him from a very young age.

Malik is a recent graduate of the African Leadership Academy(ALA), and was involved in various leadership roles such as being Chairman of Student Government. He was also a Young Policy Committee Member of the South African Institute of International Affairs, conducting research on solving the financial, economic and leadership problems faced by South Africa and her people. In the summer prior to his freshman year, Malik worked as a Finance Intern in an African business networking firm that seeks to transform the economic landscape of the African continent through investment in agriculture and technology. 

At the University of Notre Dame, Malik hopes to study Finance with Applications of Computational and Mathematical Statistics(ACMS) to improve methods of financial resource allocation, and channel investments into infrastructure projects that will increase productive efficiency and boost economic growth in Africa. 

Malik lives by the spirit of “Ubuntu,” which is just another way of saying, “being a force of greater good.” 

Stefan Murdiono

Stefan Murdiono

  • Areas of Study: Business Analytics, Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics
  • Hometown: Jakarta, Indonesia

Stefan Elliot Murdiono is a Hesburgh-Yusko Scholar from Jakarta, Indonesia, double majoring in Business Analytics and ACMS (Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics).

At Canisius College High School, he served as the Student Council Presidium treasurer, spearheaded the Ragamuda youth inclusion and diversity initiative, and captained the varsity table tennis team. As chairman of Ragamuda, Stefan organized a friendly Independence Day tournament involving 4 high schools of different religious backgrounds amid political conflicts between identity groups. Alongside the tournament, Stefan successfully launched the #KitaTetapBerkarya movement, which gathered 13,600 participants from 86 schools nationwide, becoming one of the largest high school social campaigns ever held in Indonesia. His exceptional leadership led him to receive the Pedro Arrupe award at Canisius College High School. 

Outside of Canisius, Stefan founded The Bright Knight Foundation, a non-profit organization with a mission of educational equity in Indonesia, that worked on a multitude of projects ranging from scheduled tutoring sessions to school supply donations for underprivileged students across Greater Jakarta. Additionally, he volunteered at Lembaga Daya Dharma, a humanitarian organization under the Catholic Archdiocese of Jakarta, where he helped develop an online inventory database for better distribution of footwear donations. Stefan has also won multiple business case competitions at the regional and national levels.

Prior to his freshman year at Notre Dame, Stefan interned at a consumer goods company, Wings Group Indonesia, as a business analyst. Academically, Stefan is interested in the application of mathematical models and optimization methods, especially in the finance, education, and sports industry. In his free time, Stefan enjoys reading, tennis, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. During his time at Notre Dame, Stefan intends to explore academia while pursuing his passion for social change.

Martina Ponce

Martina Ponce

  • Areas of Study: Political Science and Economics
  • Hometown: Quito, Ecuador

Martina Ponce was born in London but moved to Ecuador at a very young age, and she graduated as a valedictorian from the American School of Quito. At Notre Dame, she will be majoring in Political Science and Economics in the College of Arts and Letters. 

While growing up, her passion for community service started to increase, which led her to organize many activities in which she helped her community. For her, some of the most meaningful ones were raising funds to build houses for homeless families affected by the 2016 earthquake in Ecuador, being a part of the project 'Beyond Lagartococha,' which has the mission of providing education to indigenous communities in Ecuador and Peru's border and creating a project which provided kids with emotional support while battling cancer. 

At Notre Dame, Martina hopes to continue different efforts and start new initiatives that will change the lives of many people who are in need by combining education with passion and experience. 

Gabriella Shirtcliff

Gabriella Shirtcliff

  • Areas of Study: Chemical Engineering
  • Hometown: Bend, Oregon

Gabriella Shirtcliff is a Hesburgh-Yusko scholar from Bend, Oregon. She graduated valedictorian from Summit High School, where she enjoyed playing softball, serving as captain in speech and debate, competing in Poetry Out Loud, and studying Japanese. 

In high school, in partnership with her local county health authority, Gabriella focused on substance use prevention policy and youth mobilization. A founding member of Teen Community Health Advocates, a Oregon-based youth committee focused on substance use prevention, Gabriella worked with her local school district to update curriculum and punitive policies, led research in community health, and designed youth resource programs for cessation and prevention. She also worked with Oregon lawmakers to create and institute policy to instate tobacco retail licensing, provide menstrual dignity, and prevent youth nicotine addiction. Gabriella also served as the youngest board member of the Shared Future Coalition and the Oregon Health Authority Tobacco Retail Licensing Rules Advisory Committee. 

In her free time, Gabriella enjoys Basque dancing, crocheting, and creating jewelry. She is passionate about dismantling ableism, disrupting the cycle of addiction, and making the world a better place via innovation, community collaboration, and policy.

Sophia Thielmann

Sophia Thielmann

  • Areas of Study: Architecture
  • Hometown: Barranquilla, Colombia

Sophia Thielmann from Barranquilla, Colombia is a Hesburgh Yusko Scholar and part of the Glynn Family Honors program. She graduated valedictorian from Colegio Karl C. Parrish and intends to major in Architecture. 

Sophia is characterized by her vision and passion for concepts that transcend individual life. With this at hand, she sought to find a major which served the greater purpose of helping others and contributing to humanity as a whole. This sense of responsibility has led her to take action and to participate in an internship at Giancarlo Mazzanti’s studio, get a Green Roof Professional accreditation, become Arts and Culture Editor at her school’s newspaper, and learn about the history and practice of Architecture in courses by Harvard edx, IvestIN, and Oxbridge at Cambridge, where she won a full academic scholarship for the latter. Through these pursuits of interest, she discovered the importance of architecture, its perdurance in history, and its impact in the people’s environment. With this at hand, she hopes to contribute to a field bigger than herself, while striving to find a way to combine architectural restoration with psychological and community reinforcement after disasters. 

She also explored herself through other interests related to her sense of purpose and thirst for growth. During high school, she did a leadership program by Mindot where she interned and then led her to do a public speaking course at Universidad del Norte as an act of self improvement; her hard work and constant exposure to challenges led her to become president of the Green Club, Mu Alpha Theta Society, Captain of the Women’s High School Soccer Team, and Secretary of the Key Club. She also created ‘Un Libro a la Vez’, a service created to donate books to children in unfavorable conditions, as a way to help others receive their basic right of education. 

In her free time, Sophia enjoys drawing, listening to music, laughing, thinking, reading, playing soccer, and reflecting on her experiences to constantly make the best out of everything. 

Mirella Wunderlich

Mirella Wunderlich

  • Areas of Study: Business Analytics
  • Hometown: Juiz de Fora, Brazil

Mirella is an undergraduate at the University of Notre Dame, majoring in Business Analytics with a minor in Computing and Digital Technologies. Mirella is from Juiz de Fora, a small, quiet town in Brazil with limited opportunities. She embraced diverse educational experiences outside her school community by independently seeking development programs, knowledge olympiads, and highschool competitions from around the country - and the globe. As a highschool student, she was the first ever woman to represent her country at the International Economics Olympiad, leading Brazil to its 5th ever podium position in the competition. Mirella was a Fundraising intern at Fundacao Estudar, one of Brazil's most relevant nonprofits, where she developed her interest in fostering Brazil's incipient donating culture. Mirella is passionate about contributing to the future of Brazil and other developing countries’ impact-based business landscape, while lighting the path and serving as a role model for young women in Business, Economics, and Tech.

Jennifer  Yeh

Jennifer Yeh

  • Areas of Study: Economics
  • Hometown: Taipei, Taiwan

At Notre Dame, Jennifer's looking forward to exploring the field of Business, presumably transferring into Mendoza and studying Management Consulting. As an IDEA Center Fellow, she's also interested in undertaking an Innovation & Entrepreneurship minor. She’s also interested in joining SIBC, FUEL, Club Soccer, Innovation for Impact, AAA, TSA, and more! 

In high school, Jennifer captained the Girls Varsity volleyball, basketball, and soccer teams as well as served on the student government, where she was able to sharpen her leadership qualities and communication skills. In her free time, Jennifer volunteered as an assistant trainer at an elderly physiotherapy clinic as well as a cultural tour guide at the local Taichung Shiyakusho Historic Site. She also co-directed an organization which created a media platform and continuously hosted weekend bazaars assisting the Taiwanese Indigenous people in their economic endeavors and promoting Aboriginal culture. This summer, Jennifer interned at Jen Ai Chang Gung Health International Medical Center as a social media marketing consultant, where she performed data analysis, conducted media marketing, and ultimately built a stronger social presence for the Center. 

In the next 4 years, Jennifer hopes to build lasting friendships, develop better skillsets, and make lifelong memories! 

Macdonald Zharima

Macdonald Zharima

  • Areas of Study: Computer Engineering
  • Hometown: Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Macdonald Zharima is a Hesburgh-Yusko scholar from Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe and alumnus of the African Leadership Academy. His main interests are Entrepreneurship, Agriculture, Engineering and education reform. He is passionate about technological innovation and is majoring in Computer Engineering.
In high school, Macdonald was involved in various tutoring projects which he co-founded with friends. He served as president of the Quiz club where he helped promote Afro-centric knowledge to students in his community and won a National and several Provincial titles. He was also involved community service where helped advise rural families on effective farmers. In 2019, he was named a Joshua Nkomo scholar in recognition of his academic and leadership efforts. After graduating, he hopes to establish a school for developing African technological innovators and entrepreneurs to help bring technological growth on the continent
Macdonald enjoys playing basketball, swimming, reading fiction and listening to music. He loves traveling and hopes to visit all seven wonders of the world.
 

Kira Zizzo

Kira Zizzo

  • Areas of Study: Marketing and Visual Communication Design
  • Hometown: Highlands Ranch, Colorado

Kira Zizzo, a Hesburgh Yusko Scholar from Highlands Ranch, Colorado, is double majoring in Marketing and Visual Communication Design.

During high school, Kira served as the editor-in-chief of her school newspaper, overseeing multiple media platforms, and garnering dozens of state and national journalism titles. One of her highlights was when she spoke about covering her school board’s political controversy on 9News, Fox31, Colorado Public Radio, The Japan Times, Bloomberg, and The Washington Post.  

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kira worked as the Executive Director of Public Relations and Marketing for Erevna, a Harvard University-Founded International Nonprofit Organization. She coordinated public relations and outreach efforts for initiatives disseminating COVID-19 data regarding overlooked narratives. Kira also started the Mobile Literacy Enhancement COVID-19 Bookmobile, delivering hundreds of donated books to elementary school students to enhance youth literacy during the pandemic.

As her love for advocacy grew, she worked as a policy reform leader in her school district, collaborating closely with the Board of Education to revise, reform, and implement new changes through policy writing and advocacy, improving mental health services within the district for 63,000+ students.

Following her passion for generating positive change, Kira founded multiple nonprofit organizations. As the founder of Jags Go Pink, she spearheaded the initiative to make comfort baskets for patients undergoing breast cancer treatment. Similarly, in Random Acts of Positivity, she led students to create 100+ comfort bags for foster children recently displaced from their homes.

Kira hopes to spend her time at Notre Dame learning how to merge her love for academia and her passion for social change. She seeks to explore how business and design can be utilized for the advancement of nonprofit organizations.