Each year, we spotlight our Nexpoint Tower Scholar Seniors. We enjoy hearing about their journey through the program and how their perspective on the importance of public policy evolved when combined with their own academic interests. This year, we asked our incoming and current scholars to interview the seniors and were delighted by the conversations captured.
Harini Lenin ’25 interviewed Lamisa Ali ’23 about why she applied to the Tower Scholars Program, post-graduation plans and advice for other college students.
How did you learn about the Tower Scholars Program and why did you apply?
My freshman year, I met Nia Kamau, who was a Tower Scholar in the year above me. She was my Human Rights “big,” and we hung out a lot because we had the same majors and minors. She advised that the Tower Scholars Program might be something I’d be interested in, and she really helped me throughout the application process as well. I wasn’t really on the political science track and enjoyed interdisciplinary ways of looking at politics, which is why I majored in Human Rights and International Studies. However, I wanted to learn about the practical framework of the government and public policy process, so I applied and got in– and it’s been a great time.
What’s been your favorite part/memory of the program?
My favorite memory is definitely the D.C. trip. The trip made our cohort so much closer, especially because we were initiated during COVID and never got to meet each other until we were thrust into classes together. When we went to D.C., we really got a chance to hang out, get to know each other, explore the nation’s capital, and learn together. Professor Newton is also an amazing person – she has been a great mentor and advisor throughout many of the Tower Scholar classes, which give a wide spectrum of ways to learn about the policymaking process.
How has your time in the program shaped your SMU experience?
I’ve made so many friends that I see doing great things on campus, and having those connections is amazing. I’ve also met so many cool people, including President George W. Bush via Zoom and attended events with SMU President Gerald Turner. The Tower Scholars Program has made my SMU experience incredibly unique.
What other organizations have you been involved with at SMU?
I’m part of the Human Rights Program and am the Strategic Director for the Human Rights Council, which has been a really big part of my time here. I was also previously involved in various marketing roles. I was Program Council’s Graphic Design Chair for a bit, and I applied knowledge from that experience to professional marketing positions, including for the Human Rights Program and other campus departments. This helped me land my internship this past summer with the Center for Global Development (which I actually got in tandem with the Tower Center Rubottom Fellowship). In D.C., I worked for the communications team, and I was able to see how marketing strategies align with policymaking and policy research.
What are your post-grad plans?
I am currently applying to many national fellowship opportunities and pursuing a gap year academically. Hopefully, during this year, I will be completing a Fulbright in Spain teaching English or completing a Critical Language Scholarship or Boren Award in an Arab-speaking country. I am a Spanish and Arabic minor, and I want to travel and see all the world has to offer. Ultimately, I want real-world tangible experiences to complement my college coursework. I’ve learned these languages in classes, but I need to immerse myself into the cultures before continuing to learn about them in the classroom. Afterwards, I will apply to master’s programs in International Development.
What advice do you have for younger students as they go through college?
SMU has so many wonderful opportunities, and many students do not prioritize which niche of the school they want to be in. I was originally in so many orgs with minor positions, but over time, I figured out what I wanted to really be involved in. It’s better to grow and be a student leader in a few organizations than to spread yourself too thin. Likewise, take advantage of all of the once-in-a-lifetime experiences SMU has to offer – meet new people, make connections, and try new things.