Opening Doors for UM’s Newest Canes

By Mike Piacentino

Opening Doors for UM’s Newest Canes

By Mike Piacentino
Housing and Residential Life’s program for freshmen residents ensures first-year students immediately engage with campus resources.

Like many new ‘Canes, freshman Sade Prithwie was allured to the University of Miami for its palm trees and sunshine. Originally from Long Island, Prithwie was eager to escape the cold but also to find a university that would help her to feel at home. It was during her first visit to the lush Coral Gables campus as a high school senior that Prithwie knew the University of Miami would be the place where she could grow and thrive.

“You go places and you just get a vibe,” she said. “Everybody I met during my visit was happy and friendly.”

As an entrepreneurship and Spanish major, Prithwie hopes to start her own English-as-a-second language company to help those immigrating to the United States become fluent in English. She said that Miami’s entrepreneurship ecosystem and diverse cultural communities solidified her choice to attend UM this past fall.

“UM has such a diverse community of students,” Prithwie added. “And both our campus and the city of Miami are conducive to exploring your own future.”

Like Prithwie, her classmate, Logan Smith, a jazz vocal performance and political science major from Denver, chose to attend UM for its cultural diversity and excellence in academics. When applying to universities around the country, Smith applied to schools with top-notch jazz vocal programs. He ultimately chose to attend UM because he felt its wide array of high-quality academic programs would allow him to earn a well-rounded education.

“UM provides so many more opportunities than any other university I looked at,” Smith said. “We have access to do and see so many things throughout Miami and on campus.”

Prithwie, who lives in in Hecht Residential College, and Smith, who lives in Stanford Residential College, agree that living in on-campus housing has helped them make connections across campus. All first-year students who live on campus are part of the Department of Housing and Residential Life’s First Year Experience (FYE) program. FYE ensures that first-year resident students become acquainted with and have access to the resources they need to be successful at the University.

As part of the FYE program, University faculty and their families live within the residential colleges and host special programs for resident students. Prithwie attends weekly dinners with Michelle Gonzalez Maldonado, senior residential faculty for Hecht, professor of Religious Studies and assistant provost for undergraduate education. In addition, Prithwie is a student employee with the Department of Religious Studies and considers Maldonado one of her on-campus mentors.

“I went to a dinner in Dr. Maldonado’s apartment with my RA and other residents from my floor,” she said. “I met Dr. Maldonado and wanted to learn more about her. She and the other faculty members have been so welcoming and helpful to me so far.”

In addition to serving on UM’s Model UN team and attending the IMPACT Leadership Retreat, Smith also is a regular attendee at Stanford’s faculty dinners, where he met Professor Carie Penabad of UM’s School of Architecture.

“Professor Penabad has become a valuable resource for me on campus and is someone I would have never met without FYE programs,” he said. “Because of her, I’ve been able to make connections with the School of Architecture, a part of campus I originally knew nothing about.”

Prithwie and Smith have credited their early success on campus not only due to their eagerness to take full advantage of the many opportunities afforded to them at Miami, but also because of UM’s sense of community on campus.

“You always see someone you know walking around campus; they ask how you’re doing,” Prithwie said. “UM is a friendly atmosphere that I really enjoy because everyone here is looking out for you and has your best interests in mind.”

Through his involvements in FYE programming hosted by his resident assistant, Smith has made many friends from both within the U.S. and from around the world.

“The cultural and experiential diversity at UM helps me to learn how to explore other cultures,” Smith said. “In just the first semester alone, I made great friends with students from other countries like Pakistan and India, and from states like New York and New Jersey.”

Both Smith and Prithwie look forward to their future as Hurricanes and already have plans for getting involved next year.

“I am excited to start taking classes in other programs,” Smith said. “I also want to become more involved with the Toppel Career Center to start building my career path.”

Prithwie, who participated in Orientation Outreach and Gandhi Day of Service – two volunteer service days hosted by the Butler Center for Service and Leadership Development – plans to become even more involved with the office’s many volunteer and leadership programs when she returns for her sophomore year.

When asked to offer some advice to the next class of ‘Canes, Prithwie and Smith both stressed the importance of being open to new ideas and new experiences.

“Get involved while you have the chance and explore as much as you can,” Smith offered. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions and take advantage of the many resources available to you on campus. They are what make The U a special place to live and learn.”

Prithwie shared, “UM has so many opportunities to do anything: study abroad, experience the culture of Miami, join a student organization, and attend an event or special activity. All of these combine to create the special community of UM.”