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St. Thomas U. attorney learns leadership from former presidents

Liza Smoker of Human Trafficking Academy graduates as Presidential Leadership Scholar

MIAMI GARDENS | To learn about leadership, Liza Smoker went straight to the top. The managing director of The John J. Brunetti Human Trafficking Academy at St. Thomas University will graduate this week as one of 60 scholars in the Presidential Leadership Scholars program.

PLS brings a diverse network of leaders together to collaborate and make a difference in the world. 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.

Liza Smoker, managing director of The John J. Brunetti Human Trafficking Academy at St. Thomas University, was one of 60 leaders chosen for the fifth class of the Presidential Leadership Scholars program.

Photographer: Clay Wieland Photography

Liza Smoker, managing director of The John J. Brunetti Human Trafficking Academy at St. Thomas University, was one of 60 leaders chosen for the fifth class of the Presidential Leadership Scholars program.

Scholars were selected based on their leadership potential and their personal projects aimed at improving civic engagement or social good.

As managing director of The John J. Brunetti Human Trafficking Academy, Smoker works on education, research, law and policy to fight human trafficking throughout the world and empower survivors. Prior to joining the St. Thomas Academy, she spent 10 years in the private practice of law. 

She graduated from Florida State University with degrees in multinational business and real estate, then returned to receive her law degree. She learned about human trafficking matters at St. Thomas University law school's Program in Intercultural Human Rights, under the direction of international expert Roza Pati, founder of the Trafficking Academy,

“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.           

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.

This fifth class of graduates 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.

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.


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