Life After LEAD: Alyssa Arnesen, ’13

We catch up with one of our former LEAD Scholars.
By Alyssa Arnesen, ’13


Read time: 2 minutes

DEC. 24, 2008, the day I received the LEAD Scholarship, feels simultaneously like a lifetime ago and like yesterday. As I opened and read the scholarship letter, I remember taking in what LEAD stands for: leadership, excellence, achievement, and diversity. From that moment on, I started to see myself through a new, empowered lens. Since then, I have tried to live up to being a LEAD Scholar.

LEAD was a staple of my college experience. I enjoyed being a member and president of the student-run advisory board. To this day, I maintain that the people I met through LEAD are some of the brightest and most passionate people I have ever met. It was an honor to be included in this group—let alone be elected to a leadership position. While on the board, I helped create engaging student programming and an inclusive environment for all scholars.

The high standards of excellence and achievement at U-M were immediately impressed upon me as a student and remain qualities I carry with me in my post-college life. This was particularly true as I transitioned into a highly detail-oriented job in Chicago at Weber Shandwick, a global public relations firm.

During my time there, I worked on exciting campaigns with top snack brands for national events, such as the Super Bowl and NBC’s Red Nose Day. I was in daily contact with media outlets to coordinate programming for these events and drafted and edited press releases to announce our brands’ participation. While this was a valuable learning experience, I knew I wanted to be more hands-on. I wanted to be part of both the business and creative sides of the decision-making process. So in the fall of 2015, I started pursuing a fine arts degree at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, with concentrations in graphic design, film, and photography.

Being part of the diverse LEAD Scholarship program gave me the courage to blend seemingly divergent interests into cohesive goals. In the future, I hope to open and run my own studio.

While December 2008 was eight years ago, the inspiration and understanding I have gained since opening that scholarship letter have lasted to this day. In addition to making U-M possible for me, LEAD has helped define the experiences I sought during school, out in the world, and now back in school once again.

Learn more about LEAD Scholars at

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