Signing on as a future leader at UM

By Ashley A. Williams

Signing on as a future leader at UM

By Ashley A. Williams
Members of the Freshman Leadership Council say the program gives them a chance to grow, build relationships, and make an impact during their time at UM.

Four years ago, Catherine De Freitas was an eager freshman with aspirations to be involved and become a leader on campus.

Today, she’s a senior and vice president of Student Government who credits her success to being a member of the Freshman Leadership Council (FLC), a program designed to support, engage, and educate future leaders in the University of Miami community.

Through mentorships, guest speakers, weekly meetings, retreats, and social activities, FLC participants learn the ins-and-outs of how to navigate and get the most out of campus resources. This unique program gives them a chance to grow within Student Government while making meaningful connections. De Freitas is proud to be passing the torch to  another generation of ’Canes.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for FLC,” she said. “The social aspect with the hard work combined gives you a sense of family and a place where you want to continue growing. Looking at the freshmen now, I can already see their paths.”

Since the inception of FLC in fall 2013, the program has grown in popularity. De Freitas, a marketing major, said she took a different approach to getting word out this year to ensure she was effectively reaching the largest freshman class UM has ever had. She and her four project coordinators posted flyers outside of dining halls, tabled at ’Canefest, and handed out pamphlets. In the past, there had been about 50 to 70 applicants to the council, but this year 124 students applied.

“It’s really hard because you can’t judge them strictly based off of their applications,” said De Freitas. “We ended up interviewing 112 students and each interview was about 15 minutes long.”

Ultimately, 26 undergraduates were chosen for the year-long program. Not only do students have the opportunity to network, but they also gain valuable knowledge and skills to leave a legacy at UM.

“This experience has helped me learn the way the campus works in so many ways,” said Nathanial Maniatis, a freshman majoring in economics and human development. “Also, there’s a level of recognition you instantly receive when being a part of FLC. Campus administrators become familiar with you and trust you to handle important tasks.” 

Ajiri Uzere, a freshman who double majors in international studies and psychology, had no student government involvement throughout high school. When she heard about FLC through a friend, she knew it was something she wanted to be a part of.

“Seeing my friend—who is currently in SG and a year older than me—come back home and talk about her experiences and how impactful FLC was to her personal growth inspired me to see how it would help me grow, also,” Uzere said.

Nathan Dumont, a sports administration major, added: “It’s like a family. As a freshman, being able to walk around and see so many faces that I’m familiar with means so much to me. That wouldn’t be possible without FLC.”

At UM, campus-wide events like Homecoming are predominately student-led, which makes FLC an important organization. Each cohort is passionate about leaving a legacy and sense of ’Cane pride for the next freshman class.

De Freitas said she wants future candidates to know that their involvement in high school is not the deciding factor in the application process.

“College is to start fresh,” she said. “The biggest things we are looking for are personality, enthusiasm, and the willingness to be outgoing.”