Published on September 15, 2023 by Sofia Paglioni  
Jessica Smith SD0921932

Jessica Smith ’23, an alumna of Samford University’s fellows’ program, is currently attending the University of Notre Dame Law School and has been accepted into the school’s Murphy Fellowship program, a cohort that supports students who are studying law and religion.

Murphy Fellows are selected through a written application process, and all law students may apply. University of Notre Dame Law School enrolled 180 students during this cycle, and four were offered this selective, full-tuition scholarship.

 “I am thrilled to be at Notre Dame Law School and excited for the opportunities the Murphy Fellowship affords to engage with Notre Dame's Religious Liberty Initiative and Religious Liberty Clinic,” said Smith. “I am also confident that Notre Dame has the same kind of brilliant but accessible faculty I valued at Samford who will encourage and help me as I begin my legal career.”

Samford’s University Fellows program seeks to educate students holistically, focusing on their spiritual, intellectual and moral formation. Classes are Socratic in style, and students are encouraged to lead and guide the discussion.

Smith credits the University Fellows program for her formative relationships with both students and faculty. Smith said, “My professors were brilliant, but more importantly, they wanted to get to know you personally. They're the kind of professors you want to retake over and over again.”

When applying to law school at the University of Notre Dame, Smith was able to lean on the tight community formed through the University Fellows program.

Smith reflected on her journey to get into law school. “Perhaps the most significant way the University Fellows program impacted me was through an internship which is administered through the University Fellows office,” shared Smith. “At this internship, I got to work under a judge and Samford University alum who became a mentor and encouraged me to think bigger than I ever would have allowed myself to think. I wouldn't have gotten this opportunity if I had not been a fellow, and it is undoubtedly why I am a Murphy Fellow at Notre Dame Law School today.” Along with this prestigious honor, Smith was also recently awarded an Alpha Lambda Delta (ALD) Fellowship and is one of 28 students in the nation to win the award.


Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.