Isabela Tasende named valedictorian

Kellogg International Scholar Isabela Tasende of Panama City, Panama, has been named valedictorian of the 2024 University of Notre Dame graduating class.

The 179th University Commencement Ceremony will be held May 19 (Sunday) in Notre Dame Stadium for graduates and guests. During the ceremony, Tasende will present the valedictory address.

Tasende is an economics and political science major with a minor in theology in the College of Arts and Letters where she has accumulated a 4.0 grade point average and has been a member of the dean’s list each semester. During her time at Notre Dame, she was a Hesburgh-Yusko ScholarKellogg International Scholar and Phi Beta Kappa early inductee.

This spring, she was awarded the O’Donnell Prize for best senior thesis in comparative politics for her thesis project, which researched the military’s role in the survival of Venezuela’s authoritarian regime, with Kellogg faculty fellow Scott Mainwaring as her thesis adviser.

As a research assistant in the Kellogg Institute's Notre Dame Eliminating Violence Against Women Lab, Tasende analyzed data on gender-based violence and conducted online interviews, transcriptions and public opinion surveys with policymakers and victims of violence. This contributed to the understanding of the relationship between female victimization and political participation in Latin America. She also attended the United Nations Women Global Leaders Forum in Ecuador, connecting with relevant policymakers, community leaders and academics to discuss findings on gender-based violence in settings of territorial control.

During her undergraduate career, she also worked as an intern at PricewaterhouseCoopers and an economic policy analyst at Our National Conversation.

Outside of the classroom, Tasende served as president and treasurer of the Latino Honor Society, the director of casing for Consulting Connect and director of communications for the Pre-Law Student Board. She was a copy editor for a Keough School of Global Affairs publication, a volunteer at Cultivate Food Rescue in South Bend and a Building Bridges peer mentor.

In her native Panama, Tasende co-founded Somos Voces, a student-run nonprofit organization that identifies systemic challenges faced by young mothers. The organization has grown to have five clubs in schools throughout Panama City working to include student voices in political activism. As a part of this organization, she worked with government officials and larger nonprofits to build a center where young mothers could finish their education. She also met with national presidential candidates and public officials, bringing forth a successful petition to discuss the issue of teenage pregnancy and sexual education in the 2019 Panamanian presidential debate. Tasende was instrumental in creating and fundraising for a yearly scholarship that helps young mothers achieve their dreams of higher education by funding the first year of their college courses.

After graduation, Tasende plans to continue her work in this policy area, volunteering for women’s organizations in Panama before returning to the United States to work as an associate consultant at Bain & Company.

The Notre Dame valedictorian and salutatorian selection process begins by identifying the top four students among those with the highest grade point averages in each college or school. Those students are then invited to complete an application that includes letters of recommendation from faculty members and a draft of their commencement speech. A selection committee, coordinated by the Office of Undergraduate Education in the Office of the Provost, interviews finalists and chooses a valedictorian and salutatorian who are approved by University President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.


Adapted from a story posted at