Skip to Content

National Fellowships and Scholar Programs

  • Banner Image

Two University of South Carolina Students Awarded Mount Vernon Leadership Fellowship

The Office of Fellowships and Scholar Programs is thrilled to announce Rebekah Parris and Olivia Reszczynski have been named 2017 Mount Vernon Leadership Fellows. This year, 16 fellows were selected out of a pool of approximately 950 applicants from across the nation.

Starting in June, sixteen students will immerse themselves in a leadership development program inspired by George Washington and today's foremost leaders. These promising college students will engage in a vibrant leadership education curriculum and interact with nationally recognized corporate, government, and military leaders in the nation's capital.

"This fellowship is designed for college students who are leaders and influencers on their campuses," said Mount Vernon president Curt Viebranz. "They will take their experience at Mount Vernon and institute real, positive change for their universities and communities."

With the opening of the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington in 2013, Viebranz envisioned an ambitious plan to attract and engage emerging student leaders, helping them become the movers and shakers of tomorrow. He proposed an innovative, residential summer fellowship experience for standout rising college juniors from the nation's top colleges and universities. Creating a leadership program for a highly competitive, hard-to-reach audience seemed like a towering goal. However, patriotic philanthropist David M. Rubenstein recognized the program's potential impact. He generously agreed to fund its launch as part of his gift to the campaign for the Library. And on June 4, 2017 Mount Vernon will welcome its third class of Leadership Fellows.

"We are gratified by how the Mount Vernon Leadership Fellows program has galvanized our first two classes comprised of 31 alumni since 2015," said Viebranz. "They adopt George Washington's bias for action, and leave Mount Vernon invigorated and eager to better their own campuses and communities. Leadership Fellows have created college courses, published books and started mentoring programs. As the fellowship grows, we are excited to see the impact these amazing students will have in the world."

While residing at Mount Vernon and in Washington, D.C., students will take part in intimate, behind-the-scenes tours and cultural opportunities that surpass the average D.C. summer program or internship. These experiences align with the Leadership Fellows' daily academic curriculum, designed by Mount Vernon's Leadership Institute team, which focuses on Washington's character, inspirational leadership, and vision - all essential to his success as a statesman, entrepreneur, and military leader.

Parris is a rising junior and member of the South Carolina Honors College, with a major in Chemistry, and minors in Medical Humanities, Biology, and Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior. Both a Deans Scholar and a Palmetto Fellows Scholar, she is also a member of Alpha Lambda Delta and Alpha Epsilon Delta honor societies. She is the President of Be the Match on Campus, and founder of Preemie Parcels, a local service initiative to provide support to families with infants in the NICU at Palmetto Health Richland Hospital. Her research and volunteer work focus on neonatology, and she plans to become a neonatologist and work to expand the field of neonatology in third world countries.

Reszczynski is a rising junior and member of the South Carolina Honors College, where she is majoring in Biochemistry and Economics with a minor in Business Administration. She is a Palmetto Fellows Scholar and a Stamps Carolina Scholar. During her time at USC, Reszczynski has served as president of the Biochemistry Society, and arts and culture section editor of The Daily Gamecock. She has served as an educator by tutoring at Palmetto Place Children's Shelter. Reszczynski also conducts research in collaboration with Dr. Carson in his Integrative Muscle Biology laboratory, investigating cancer cachexia, a wasting condition that develops from cancer and other pro-inflammatory conditions.

The Mount Vernon Leadership Fellows Program candidates are supported by the University's Office of Fellowships and Scholar Programs, established in 1994 to assist students for national fellowship competitions. USC has had three Mount Vernon Leadership Fellows since the program began in 2015. To learn more about national fellowships and competitions visit

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.