Finding My Vision: The Hesburgh-Yusko Scholars Program at Notre Dame

Author: Julia Tombari

Father Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C. once said, “The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet”. As I am beginning my sophomore year at Notre Dame, I am realizing even more how important vision is to the cultivation of oneself and one’s goals as a member of today’s rapidly changing society.

Hesburgh-Yusko Scholar Julia Tombari on a hike while at the National Outdoor Leadership School in Wyoming

When I was in high school and looking for colleges, Notre Dame stood out to me because of its focus on moral and ethical leadership in the classroom and beyond. I am currently a sophomore in the Mendoza College of Business, and every day, there are countless times when I am reminded of the school’s purpose-ask more of business, and ask more of yourself. As you go through the college process, it is important to have these questions in the back of your head. What kind of person do you want to become? How can you set yourself on this path to becoming that person?

If there is one group on campus that has truly challenged and inspired me to find my vision while at Notre Dame, it is the Hesburgh –Yusko Scholars Program. The program, which is in its fifth year, is founded on the concept of transformational leadership, something that Father Hesburgh truly embraced as an activist, a priest, a member of the Notre Dame community, and as a global leader.

The program is composed of 100 scholars, 25 from each class. Each scholar brings something unique to the program, and the group is diverse, with scholars from a variety of different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. The application process is competitive, and completed during the fall of the senior year of high school. Scholars need to show a track record of high academic standing, service, leadership, and other extracurricular activities that align with the mission and pillars of the program.

If one is selected, along with twenty five thousand dollars per year towards the cost of attendance at Notre Dame, scholars in the program participate in four summer experiences; wilderness leadership, social justice, global inquiry, and professional venture. The goals of these summer experiences are to provide scholars with the experience and skills needed to come out of Notre Dame with a better understanding of themselves, the world around them, and their abilities to make positive change. However, these summer experiences are only a mere fraction of the scholar experience. Throughout the year, scholars regularly meet and discuss pressing issues at Notre Dame and in the world today, and actively engage with the local South Bend community and the service and volunteer opportunities in the area.

My summer experiences as a scholar have been incredible so far. My wilderness experience was a thirty day NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) course in Wyoming, and the challenge of this experience taught me resilience, patience, and perseverance in anything I do (the picture above is me celebrating a long day's hike). This last summer, I was in Washington D.C., interning at FINCA International, a worldwide microfinance organization. At FINCA, I helped the organization to better its Client Protection and Social Performance practices, and this taught me research and communication skills, and working in a business setting to achieve best practices for communities in developing countries.

But beyond my summers, I have also found my time as a scholar invaluable to my Notre Dame experience. I am constantly amazed at my fellow scholars; their accomplishments, their knowledge, and their incredible goals. It is truly incredible to be part of a small community within Notre Dame that is so driven and passionate about so many different things and to create a place for discussion and reflection.


For more specific information on how to apply to the Hesburgh-Yusko Scholars Program, contact the program staff at (574)-631-1111 or visit