Barry McNamara  |   Published February 28, 2018

Where Washington walked

Smithhisler selected for prestigious summer leadership program at Mount Vernon
MONMOUTH, Ill. – Walking the same ground that one of America’s founding fathers called home would be inspiring enough for most people.

But for Monmouth College student Hadley Smithhisler and 14 other U.S. college students, their time this summer at George Washington’s Mount Vernon home is designed to be even more impactful.

A highly selective six-week summer institute for rising college juniors, the Mount Vernon Leadership Fellows Program offers unparalleled learning and networking opportunities.

The program, which runs May 26-July 6 on the banks of the Potomac River in Fairfax County, Virginia, “discusses leadership through the lens of George Washington’s legacy,” said Smithhisler, a history and French major from Valley City, N.D., who was selected for the program from among hundreds of applicants. Fellows in the last three years have come from such universities as Harvard, Yale, Brown, Duke and Vanderbilt.

A highlight of the experience is learning how to transform a passion into a blueprint for action in the form of a capstone project. Working with an assigned mentor, Leadership Fellows spend some of their time at Mount Vernon working on their individual capstones, culminating in a final presentation at the conclusion of the program.

“I had to propose a project on my application for the program,” said Smithhisler. “I’m hoping to start a mentoring program in Monmouth that connects female students at the middle school and high school with female students at Monmouth College. I participated in a program like that when I was younger, so I can really appreciate the benefits. I think Monmouth is a good fit for a program like that, especially when you consider the College’s tradition of a willingness to admit women students and starting two national women’s fraternities (Pi Beta Phi and Kappa Kappa Gamma) on campus.”

When Smithhisler came to Monmouth, she was initially interested in pursuing a STEM path, but she turned her focus toward law school and now hopes to get into international law. Last fall, she was named Top Advocate at the College’s annual Moot Court competition.

A member of the College’s first class of Stockdale Leadership Fellows, Smithhisler is very active on campus, including serving as president of Rotoract, secretary of Blue Key and secretary/editor of the College’s Midwest Journal of Undergraduate Research.

“For me, leadership is a collaborative process,” she said. “It’s about working with people to create change, rather than sitting back and telling people what to do.”

Through her experiences at Monmouth, Smithhisler has learned that she can lead with her type of personality.
“I grew up thinking I wouldn’t be a big leader because I didn’t have the biggest personality,” she said. “I’ve enjoyed being a Stockdale Fellow and working in the office of our adviser, Jake McLean. It’s been a good experience to see the behind-the-scenes aspects of leadership.”
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