UMSL alum Georgeann McLemore, fresh off White House internship, heading to Northern Ireland on prestigious Fulbright scholarship

by | Jun 24, 2024

McLemore will study UX/UI design at Ulster University, developing an app to assist Alzheimer's patients and their caretakers in honor of her grandmother, Celeste Redding.
Georgeann McLemore

UMSL graduate Georgeann McLemore will start her year-long Fulbright scholarship program in Northern Ireland at the end of September. (Photo by Derik Holtmann)

Georgeann McLemore has mastered the art of productive traveling. During her time as an undergraduate at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, she took advantage of opportunities presented through the school to advance her education and gain valuable real-life work experience in the United Kingdom, South Korea and Amsterdam.

McLemore, who graduated from UMSL in May 2023 with a BS in information systems and technology with a focus on cybersecurity, spent this spring in Washington, D.C., as a White House intern in the Office of Digital Strategy. In September, she’s starting a year-long adventure in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where she will study at Ulster University as part of the prestigious Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

“The trip to South Korea is what sparked it,” McLemore said of her now-insatiable travel bug. “I saw what I could do. Nobody in my family has gone abroad before, so I’m first generation. I want to make sure that I’m laying out a path to make sure that my nieces and nephews see that this isn’t all there is. You can do more, go to school, go to college and apply yourself. I don’t care how big or how small it is. Just do it. You never know what might happen.”

McLemore, who graduated from McCluer North High School, will be just the 22nd person from UMSL to participate in the Fulbright Scholarship program. Lucy Grimshaw (2023) and William Pryor (2021) are the two most recent, and Kenneth Sellers was the first, in 1950. On average, 850 Fulbright Scholars are selected every year out of more than 4,000 applicants, and those recipients travel to more than 130 countries to pursue their educational and career-oriented passions.

McLemore was nominated for the Fulbright program by Annie Hyde, UMSL’s study abroad coordinator. The application process is thorough, including both a personal statement and a statement of grant purpose, which is a two-page document explaining what the applicant hopes to accomplish while in the Fulbright program.

McLemore has a purpose, no doubt.

“The main purpose for going, picking this school, is I want to develop an app for people with Alzheimer’s, and their caretakers,” she said. “My grandma suffered from Alzheimer’s, and she passed, so I wanted to specifically create something for that niche group.”

Her grandma, Celeste Redding, will be with her in spirit in Ireland.

“I can vividly recall Marvin Gaye’s ‘One of These Days’ blasting throughout her house,” she said. “And the warm, comforting scent of my grandma’s kitchen – a homey blend of vanilla, cinnamon and the faintest hint of peppermint – always made me feel safe and loved.”

The app McLemore plans to develop will include elements such as medicine schedules and appointments, with photos of family members and brain games to help stimulate memory. The app will also have a GPS tracker connected to a relative or caretaker’s phone in case the loved one with dementia wanders off.

Her lifelong enthusiasm for art and design led to an interest in exploring the world of UX/UI – designing a website, product or app with user experience as a priority – and Ulster University offered the right opportunity. McLemore reached out to Paul McCormack, the program coordinator in Belfast, who said a lot of his students didn’t come directly from a UX/UI background, similar to McLemore. He encouraged her to reach out to some of his previous students.

“I talked to them about it, and they said it’s the greatest thing they’ve ever done, and they originally weren’t from design backgrounds,” she said. “One came from medicine, and the other came from communication. They said, ‘Paul, he’s a great teacher. You’ll have a lot of fun.’”

So McLemore applied, and then she waited. And waited. Months had passed without any word, so she thought she hadn’t been chosen. Then, on April 15 an email popped up while she was at her desk in Washington, D.C.

“I see it’s from Fulbright and I was like, ‘This is it. They’re going tell me I didn’t get it,’” she said. “I opened the email and it says ‘Congratulations!’ I literally screamed in the office. They were like, ‘Georgeann, what’s wrong?’ I said, ‘You guys, it happened! It actually happened. I got it. They accepted me. I’m going to Ireland!’”

McLemore, who is working on graphic design projects on a freelance basis while she’s back in St. Louis this summer, has to be in London on Sept. 2 for orientation, and her classes start Sept. 31 in Belfast. When she finishes the program – which lasts a calendar year – she’ll have her MA in user experience and service design from Ulster. Maybe more importantly, she will have a tangible product that’s close to her heart to share with the world.

McLemore will use lessons learned – design and otherwise – during her White House internship while she’s in Ireland. The five months she spent in D.C., which started on Jan. 21, were transformative. The spring session included a total of 230 White House interns across all departments, and McLemore was one of just five on the Office of Digital Strategy design team.

Her group helped produce social content, especially for the Instagram accounts for @POTUS, @WhiteHouse, @VP and @LaCasaBlanca.

Georgeann McLemore

The spring 2023 White House interns, with Vice President Kamala Harris. UMSL grad Georgeann McLemore is in the second row, fifth from the right. (Photo courtesy of Georgeann McLemore)

One of the products McLemore was directly involved in was designing the branding for President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address, which went out on all the social channels.

“The State of the Union was amazing,” she said. “I stayed until like 2 a.m. on the actual night. I had to put in the text as he was giving the speech and then put it on Instagram. That was a really big project for me. I made over 26 icons for the State of the Union. It was cool to look at the feed and think, ‘Yeah, that was me. I created that!’”

Another highlight was the White House’s bring-your-child-to-work day. McLemore and her group came up with the idea of giving the kids a sheet of paper that asked what they would post on social media if they were president for a day. It was such a success with the kids that some of the responses were posted on the official White House Instagram feed, which was not the original plan. McLemore and her team created branding and posts for Mother’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, Easter and Ramadan, too.

One of her favorite parts of the internship was getting to know her fellow interns, who came to D.C. with a variety of backgrounds, interests and areas of expertise.

White House interns

UMSL alum Georgeann McLemore (far left) and her fellow White House interns – from left: Katherine Bronov, Cristopher Ruiz, Amita Ganesh and Abigail Estrada, with program coordinator Deterrian Jones (bottom center) – in the Office of Digital Strategy. (Photo courtesy of Georgeann McLemore)

“I always assumed people who worked in politics were uptight suits, so I was definitely intimidated by that,” McLemore said. “I’m not a poli-sci major. I know nothing about this world. But surprisingly, most of the people on my team, they didn’t come from policy or political science backgrounds. We got along fairly quickly because most of us weren’t from there. We just kind of made our own family because we needed somebody to lean on.”

The idea of continuing to push herself with challenging environments and learning atmospheres after she finishes with her Northern Ireland experience is appealing.

“I want go to different countries and just learn something new,” she said. “UX/UI would be the goal, or just doing graphic design, but being able to do that remotely. Like, for example, going to Thailand and working from a villa over there. That would be the goal, to be able to travel for my work instead of it being a short-term thing. I want it to be something that I can do long term.”

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