Liza Smoker, managing director of The John J. Brunetti Human Trafficking Academy at St. Thomas University, was selected as one of the 60 Scholars chosen for the Presidential Leadership Scholars (PLS) program’s fifth annual class. Smoker will participate in a graduation ceremony with her fellow Scholars on June 27 at the George W. Bush Presidential Center. The event will be livestreamed at 6 p.m. EST at the following link: www.presidentialleadershipscholars.org.
PLS serves as a catalyst for a diverse network of leaders brought together to collaborate and make a difference in the world as they learn about leadership through the lens of the presidential experiences of George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Lyndon B. Johnson.
As Managing Director of The John J. Brunetti Human Trafficking Academy (Academy), Smoker works on education, research, law and policy to fight human trafficking throughout the world and empower survivors to develop their leadership. Prior to joining the Academy, she spent ten years in the private practice of law. She graduated from Florida State University with degrees in Multinational Business and Real Estate, where she returned to receive her law degree. She was formally educated on human trafficking matters under the direction of international expert and scholar, Dr. Roza Pati, at St. Thomas University School of Law’s LL.M./J.S.D. Program in Intercultural Human Rights.
“The PLS Program is an exceptional learning and networking experience. The opportunity to hear from the Presidents about their leadership and learn how my fellow Scholars are working to solve some of the greatest challenges of our time is inspiring. I am dedicated to put what I learn into practice in my work with the Academy as we prioritize addressing commercial sexual exploitation as well as the harmful effects of internet pornography on children,” said Smoker.
The fifth class was selected after a rigorous application and review process. Scholars were selected based on their leadership growth potential and their personal leadership projects aimed at improving civic engagement or social good by addressing a problem or need in their community, the country, or the world.
Over the course of several months, Scholars traveled to each participating presidential center to learn from former presidents, key former administration officials, business and civic leaders, and leading academics. They studied and put into practice varying approaches to leadership and exchanged ideas to help strengthen their impact in their communities.
The latest class joins an active network of 240 Scholars who are applying lessons learned through the program to make a difference in the U.S. and around the world. Examples of these Scholar-led efforts include providing employment and mentorship to veterans, helping developing nations access safe anesthesia services for effective surgical care, empowering women with economic opportunity through clean energy in Africa, and deploying much needed resources in the wake of natural disasters.
Since the program began in 2015, Scholars have consistently reported remarkable growth in skills, responsibilities, and opportunities for impact. For example, 95 percent of Scholars reported their sense of confidence or purpose as a leader changed since beginning PLS, and 68 percent of Scholars reported new responsibilities or a role change in their work or career since beginning PLS.