Brittany (Law) Foley ’09
After leaving Alma, Brittany completed a law degree and a master’s degree in urban planning. Now employed at dPOP!, she credits her Alma education with teaching her to learn about a subject quickly, distill the information down to key points, and take action. While at Alma, academic opportunities took her to Argentina, Ukraine, Ireland, Scotland, Hawaii, New York City, and Chicago.
My hometown when I was a student was
I graduated in
Economics and Foreign Service and minored in Mathematics and Political Science
I currently live in
I am now
Since graduating from Alma
I completed my J.D. from William and Mary School of Law and a Master’s of Urban Planning from the University of Michigan. At each institution, I held a merit-based fellowship and at U of M I was a graduate student instructor for a statistics course.
My Alma education
provided a great environment for figuring out what I wanted to do and broadened my horizons. Part of what is so great about Alma is that because it is such a small campus (which seems counter intuitive to broadening horizons), the level of trust between everyone in the community is amazing. For example, from an academic viewpoint the trust between faculty and students is really evident and I was afforded so many amazing opportunities because I got to be involved in research and not just lectured to about the research. From a social standpoint, the small size of the community meant that you really got to know people beyond just those in your core classes and some of my best friends were those I had very little in common with academically.
I think the most important part of my Alma education was the breadth of knowledge I acquired through the distributive education requirements and the depth I was able to acquire through guided research and study. At both W&M and U of M, I received research fellowships that I know I wouldn’t have received if I hadn’t had the opportunities I did at Alma. Even today, I am regularly tasked with a project that I know little about (commercial interior design in general, huh?). I think my ability to learn a lot about a subject quickly, distill the information down to the key points, and succinctly present a finding is why I am looked upon when we have unique projects and is something I acquired through the Alma liberal arts education.
Also, (and I don’t know exactly how to put this) at Alma you had to actually do something. It wasn’t enough just to read about a topic then take a test… I remember having to create research projects from very broad charges, or research a topic for MUN that was seemingly endless but become an expert on it in just weeks. We were required to be able to produce results not just answer questions. I really appreciate that I have carried this over into my graduate and professional career and am someone that is looked to when there is a project that is just “too big” to start or someone has a vision but no idea how to execute it. I see this all the time with people who have lofty ideas but no understanding of how to make them real because they never had to before. I feel very fortunate that my college background has enabled me to be someone who takes action and doesn’t have to wait to find someone else to help me implement ideas.
My favorite professors(s) included
all of the professors in the economics and political science departments. Whether it be classes that were theoretical and really made me reconsider how to think about problems from a very high level to ones that taught skills that transferred well beyond the course’s textbook content, I think the breadth of the courses really makes it difficult to pick a favorite about the others, but if I had to pick, I’d say my classes with Professors Mueller, Cunningham, Hulme, and Cartrite all helped me approach other subjects with a different perspective and I can honestly say that I can draw on specific lessons learned from each of these professors even now. (That is closely related to my advice to incoming students as well: make sure to venture out into the uncomfortable. You’ll learn a lot more in your “favorite” class if you can approach the subject from a completely opposite way of thinking than you will by simply reinforcing what you already know. Don’t learn in silos—the emerging jobs need people that can think and synthesize, not just repeat.)
My off-campus study experience(s) included
the Model United Nations team, which was a great experience that taught me a lot about my strengths and weaknesses in group-work situations. I also was active in Forgotten Children of Eastern Europe (FCEE), which allowed me to volunteer in Ukraine one summer and also help raise money and awareness for the kids at Alma. Other activities include a P-Global Scholar field research experience in Ireland and being a Posey Leadership Fellow.