The freedom to choose multiple paths

UM senior Hailey Mody, who is majoring in public health and Spanish, gives a tour to a prospective student and his family recently. A Foote Fellow and a Stamps Scholar, Mody said her ability to double major and pursue extracurricular activities through the Foote Fellow Honors Program helped cement her decision to come to UM. Photo: TJ Lievonen/University of Miami

By Janette Neuwahl Tannen

UM senior Hailey Mody, who is majoring in public health and Spanish, gives a tour to a prospective student and his family recently. A Foote Fellow and a Stamps Scholar, Mody said her ability to double major and pursue extracurricular activities through the Foote Fellow Honors Program helped cement her decision to come to UM. Photo: TJ Lievonen/University of Miami

The freedom to choose multiple paths

By Janette Neuwahl Tannen
The Foote Fellows Honors Program offers students added flexibility to pursue multiple academic interests.

Four years ago when she was applying to colleges, University of Miami senior Hailey Mody noticed that most of the applications had one thing in common. They wanted to guide her toward choosing one major field of study.

But Mody, an Atlanta native, was determined to study Spanish while also pursuing a pre-medical program in college. She also wanted to have time for extracurricular activities, and a social life. So when she was offered a spot in the Foote Fellow Honors program at UM, the flexibility it offered her convinced Mody to move south to Miami. She is now also a tour guide at UM and part of UJhoom, the Bollywood-fusion dance team, as well as the College of Arts and Sciences’ academic liaison for the student government.

“Other schools wanted me to pick one major, so they were more traditional in that sense, whereas at UM they encouraged me to pursue that out-of-the-box thinking and get a holistic education,” said Mody, who is also a Stamps Scholar at UM and a Public Health major. “That’s the main reason why I was excited about the university and what they had to offer.”

Currently Mody is one of 815 undergraduate students at UM that are part of the Foote Fellows Honors Program, which encompasses about 10-to-15 percent of each class. Created in 2001 to honor the vision of former UM President Edward “Tad” Foote, the program allows academically accomplished students to explore their educational interests with more freedom than the traditional general education track.

“He wanted something for the most talented students at UM, to make it even more enriching for them, so the Foote Fellows program was born,” said Sabrina Mendoza, assistant provost for Undergraduate Education.

Some benefits Foote Fellows enjoy are that these students are given the maximum freedom that their school’s curriculum allows to build their educational experience at UM. In addition, Foote Fellows are offered priority in select classes, like the “Books that Matter” seminar taught by Senior Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education William Green and Classics professor John Paul Russo, where students read and discuss challenging nonfiction books.

Due to their academic flexibility, most Foote Fellows take on a rigorous course load at UM. Many earn two to three majors and more than one minor, said Green, who supervises the program with Melissa Hechtman, UM’s Foote Fellow program director.

“The theory of this honors program is students will do better in a research university with more freedom, rather than less, if they are ready for it,” Green said.

Hechtman also works with advisers at each of the nine undergraduate schools to help Foote Fellows chart their own unique academic route. Hechtman, as well as all the advisers, organize special events and excursions for Foote Fellows to connect with their peers, as well as distinguished faculty.

“From the start, I encourage Foote Fellows to plan for study abroad and pursue prestigious awards and fellowships,” Hechtman said.

Entry to the honors program is offered to students who demonstrate academic excellence in a rigorous load of high school courses and who are self-motivated, with an ability to think critically and independently, said Nate Crozier, assistant vice president of Admission and Marketing at UM.

Students are invited to the Foote Fellows Honors Program after they are admitted, Crozier said. Usually, the Office of Undergraduate Admission collaborates with all of the schools and colleges to decide on which candidates should be Foote Fellows and notifies them in January if they are Early Decision, or in the spring, if the student is admitted on regular admission cycle, Crozier added.

DeWayne Washington
Washington

Junior DeWayne Washington, a finance major with minors in accounting and business law, said he has become close friends with other Foote Fellows in the business school because they were placed in accelerated classes together during his freshman and sophomore year, and met regularly with the school’s Foote adviser.

“We’re all very close now and have a group chat,” said Washington, adding that he became a mentor to another Foote Fellow his sophomore year. Washington is also a Hammond Scholar. “I was very thankful [to be in the Foote Fellows Honors program] because it has enabled me to get ahead and to get two minors.”

Washington and another Foote Fellow, senior Clara “Savaje” Janzen, both appreciate that the program has allowed them to forge closer relationships with their professors. Washington said some of his teachers have guided him to apply for internships at places such as Citibank in New York where he spent last summer, and J.P. Morgan where he will be working this summer.

Savaje
Janzen

Janzen, a Political Science major with minors in Art, Chinese Studies and Religion, said she has found a mentor in Green, as well as many other professors at UM. She is preparing to be a teaching assistant for a new spring course that will meld architecture and religion taught by Green and associate professor, Denis Hector. Janzen, who is also a Presidential Scholar, said her ability to explore a wide range of interests and to study abroad in Shanghai during college helped draw her to the U.

“In the Foote Fellows program, I have had a lot of academic freedom to explore my interests and prepare myself for whatever career or path I choose,” she said “The interdisciplinary appeal of the program is more suitable for our changing, contemporary global environment.”   

To learn more about the Foote Fellows Honors Program, visit the program website here.