Julia Ossey ’15: Taking a look into the daily life of the president

Julia Ossey (photo by Kristen Chavez)
Julia Ossey (photo by Kristen Chavez)

If senior Julia Ossey were a contestant on Jeopardy, her ideal category would be “American Presidents.”

“Eisenhower only had an 8-hour day. He would spend his afternoon playing golf or just relaxing. Kennedy really liked to swim. Jimmy Carter had an 18-hour day on average,” Ossey said. “Just comparing the different times and seeing what a president’s duties were is very interesting.”

The Greensboro native first became interested in the American presidency after taking Power Politics, a first-year seminar about leadership taught by political science professor Terry Sullivan.

“After she had some experience in my first-year seminar with thinking about a problem like leadership, she came to me with her own questions – how to understand leadership in a crisis,” Sullivan said.

Ossey spent three years at UNC under the tutelage of Sullivan, researching the daily schedules of presidents. Her work spanned from Eisenhower to Bush Sr.

“I’m trying to figure out what constitutes a surprise to the president of the United States. We’re taking New York Times articles and coding them to see when the president would change his daily routine.”

After examining thousands of articles, Ossey and a fellow student researcher are currently analyzing their data.

Ossey is a political science and global studies double major in the College of Arts and Sciences. She is also minoring in Hebrew and is fluent in Arabic.

“I took Arabic and Hebrew because I love languages but I also realized that I wanted to use them in a future career in the government,” Ossey said.

Sullivan said he has watched Ossey grow tremendously over the past four years.

“Julia is an exemplar of the focused undergraduate who came to UNC with a general education and simply got more mature, broader and deeper,” he said. “And she has turned that breadth into a desire to perform national service.”

For Ossey, getting to conduct research with Sullivan was the highlight of her Carolina career.

“I know every Thursday at one o’clock we have a meeting and I have to present my research. Half the time we go on tangents, but that’s the best part,” she said.

When Ossey isn’t researching past presidents, she can be found volunteering at the Inter-Faith Council food bank in Carrboro, studying at the Hillel house, or meeting up with friends at YoPo for a cup of her favorite frozen yogurt.

She said the memories she’s made here will last a lifetime.

“It’s hard leaving after these great four years and I can’t imagine going to any other university,” she said.

“But I’m ready to take what I’ve learned at Carolina and apply it to my future.”

By Parth Shah ’15