University of Notre Dame sophomore Hayley Jie Brownd, a native of China and one of countless survivors of the country’s one-child policy, has been named a Realizing the Dream Scholar by the nonprofit group Independent Colleges of Indiana (ICI), the “collective voice” for excellence and choice in higher education in the state.
Funded by Lilly Endowment Inc., Realizing the Dream is a merit-based scholarship program that recognizes outstanding first-generation students, one each from Indiana’s 29 private, nonprofit colleges and universities, and the secondary teachers who inspired them to pursue higher education.
The award recognizes sophomores for outstanding achievement as first-year students.
“Thanks to the continued support of Lilly Endowment, we get the opportunity to hear the inspiring stories of these first-generation students and the impact local educators have had on their drive to succeed academically,” said Jodie Ferise, ICI’s vice president and general counsel. “These scholarship awards will provide critical support for these young people who are dreaming of future success.”
Brownd is a biological sciences major and compassionate care in medicine minor from Crown Point, Indiana.
Born in China, she was abandoned by her birth parents because of the country’s one-child policy, which, until 2016, prohibited couples from having more than one child in most cases as a form of population control. Due to a preference for boys, this led to millions of “missing girls” in the country, as well as a gender imbalance that continues to this day.
Consigned to an orphanage, Brownd was adopted by an American family at the age of 1 and grew up in the United States.
According to an acceptance video, she hopes from that experience to become a doctor “who is compassionate and who empowers their patients to make educated decisions to fulfill their individual needs.”
“I was welcomed into a loving family and community that has given me the opportunities to succeed. I would like to become a doctor in order to give back to the community that has supported me as well as to support future generations,” Brownd said, adding, “I believe that Notre Dame is the place where I can cultivate my mind and heart in order to become the doctor that I dream to be.”
For the secondary teacher who inspired her to pursue higher education, Brownd nominated Jason McGee, “an engaging and dynamic teacher who valued getting to know me and all of his students” and “genuinely believed in me.”
Not coincidentally, McGee, who teaches AP calculus at Crown Point High School, recommended Brownd for Notre Dame.
“He emphasized learning and challenged students because he wanted them to reach their full potential,” Brownd said of McGee. “Also, he was interactive and made the subject more lighthearted by telling stories to break up the lecture, telling calculus jokes and writing fun comments on the homework assignments.”
Realizing the Dream Scholars receive a $4,000 academic scholarship. Their former teachers receive $1,000 each in professional development grants.
“This scholarship is a physical reminder that you can achieve your goals despite your background and obstacles,” Brownd said, “and it has empowered me to believe in my abilities at Notre Dame in order to continue to grow as a student and a person.
“I am very honored to have been chosen to receive the Realizing the Dream Scholarship and I will be forever grateful.”