On the Record: Missy Foy, director of Georgetown Scholarship Program
Missy Foy (COL ’03), pictured at left, is the director of the Georgetown Scholarship Program. Founded in 2004, the GSP is a scholarship program designed not only to provide students with financial aid, but also to mentor and guide them through their time at Georgetown. Vox got the opportunity to sit down with Foy and talk about the program and her time here.
Vox: I understand that you graduated from the College in 2003. What made you want to come back here and work for GSP?
Missy Foy: I was working in DC and I found that the work that I was doing was not rewarding personally. I actually looked into a job in admissions because I thought, ‘I love Georgetown;’ it’s easy for me to talk about how great Georgetown is and it would be great to travel and talk to people about the University. So when I came here to interview for the admissions position, I had face time with the Dean of Admissions, and of all the things we talked about he said that they were looking to launch a new thing called the Georgetown Scholarship Program. As one of the new assistant admissions officers, he said that my collateral duties would be working with this program. And I said, admissions sounds interesting but tell me more about GSP.
Vox: When was this?
MF: This was in July 2005. In the fall of 2005, our first class of 50 GSP students enrolled. It’s a very young program. This coming summer the scholarship portion will have been active for 10 years.
Vox: Since you’ve been here since the very start of the program, how has GSP changed over the years?
MF: It’s grown over ten times in size. There are now 640 GSP students on campus. At first, GSP consisted of scholarships intended to help make Georgetown more affordable. For the first couple of years, it was scholarship intended to help make GU more affordable, and that was it. It wasn’t until our first class was in the spring of their freshman year when they approached the administration and said that we appreciate your help with the scholarship, but we would love to get some sort of mentorship going.
So GSP as it is today was a very grassroots driven program. We have social gatherings, induction ceremonies for freshman, programming over thanksgiving break. This was a pretty grassroots movement driven by students that changed GSP from ‘here’s this scholarship’ to how can we make these students have the best experience possible. It was driven by GU students, which I think is an important lesson that when students are passionate about something, they can approach the administration who can help smooth the path towards approval in certain areas there are limitless possibilities. I would encourage students if they’re passionate about something to pitch their ideas to the administration.
Vox: Have you found the University to be supportive in the expansion of GSP?
MF: Yes, absolutely. It was initially this grassroots effort, but when the U noticed that it really helped increase the yield, the percentage of admitted students who actually enroll, they began to see how important and valuable GSP is. They made fundraising for scholarships part of the U’s campaign. They’ve been very supportive and it’s interesting that other schools are approaching Georgetown asking about GSP. I presented GSP to a bunch of other schools at a conference this week. A lot of other universities are looking to see how they can build programs like GSP. I think it’s a testament to Georgetown that all these years ago, it was already forward thinking on this topic. If you think about it, even just having a hired position to work with GSP students is a novel concept in the higher education world.
I’m hopeful that Georgetown can be an advocate for the benefits of a program like this nationally and I think that Georgetown will be proud to look back at this twenty years from now and think that we were really ahead of the curve on this topic.
Vox: What do you see as the future of GSP?
MF: I would like to do more with seniors, like offering some sort of senior specific scholarship that helps with graduation related costs. We focus a lot on freshman but I think that seniors incur a lot of costs whether it be GRE test prep, flying places to interview for jobs, all of this accumulates. My boss is the dean of financial aid and she’s very receptive of the idea, it’s just the matter of where the money will come from.
My two other goals would be to one, get funding to endow the program—so a large gift that would say that the scholarships are great, but what’s also important is a program that creates a community. I want my legacy at GU to be that I was able to leave it confidently knowing that it’s future is in place. Every year we have to make sure that the funding is there. I would also like to see more staff members so it’s easier for GSP students to see advisors.
And I also see a challenge to the GSP in its ability to maintain a sense of community when you grow past a certain point. How do GSP students know each other, how do you facilitate community engagement opportunities. Retaining a sense of community and family while also continuing to allow more students access to the program is a challenge.
Vox: Will the actual number of GSP students increase in the future?
MF: It just depends on university funding. The other caveat is that we don’t have a closed door policy—so if you’re getting scholarship at Georgetown in general and could benefit from additional resources, we have a process where students who are not in the GSP can get involved.
Vox: What are the ways students not in the GSP can get involved?
MF:We have a GSP volunteer corps consisting of people who help out at the GSP office. The other opportunity that’s huge is mentoring. We have a group of GSP mentors consisting of 100 students.
I’ve never cared about anything in my life as much as I do about this program and these students and making sure that GSP students have the best possible college experience that they can. I’m lucky to be let into the stories of the GSP students.
The first class graduated coming up on five years ago, so we’re planning a big reunion party for the graduates of GSP. We hope to get GSP alumni more engaged in the program on a daily basis. I think we can do a better job in connecting our alumni to current students.
Vox: How do you think GSP is helping incorporate a more socio-economically and ethnically diverse population into the University?
MF: GSP brings 150 students to Georgetown each year that otherwise might not have been able to afford it. This makes a dent in diversifying our campus socio-economically, racially, even geographically because our students are from all over the country. You can see that just from the yield. When you add this scholarship on top of it, the yield skyrockets. Students are far more likely to come here if they are awarded the 1789 scholarship than if they don’t. In this day and age when you look at the whole cost of attendance, unless we have competitive scholarships, we will only cater to a certain part of the population and I think that anybody who truly loves Georgetown would understand that that’s not the best thing for the University. We need people from all different backgrounds and viewpoints in the classroom hashing out issues and talking about these critical topics in our day and age. This especially applies today given the changing demographic of our nation—it’s important that our U reflects the shifting demographics. I think that we have a long way to go, there’s much more we can do. But I think that’s why scholarship is so critical.
Quite frankly, it’s selfish—it’s better for the University to get these students than to lose them to other schools.
Vox: What do you consider the most important development in GSP this academic year?
MF: The biggest thing in the GSP world this year is the fact that we have more students than ever before. Even last year we were at 530, this year we’re at 640. These are the biggest numbers we’ve ever had in the program. And also I think we’re understanding which programs work and help students the best, and also maximizing the resources we have—better streamlining and making the program more efficient. Every year is a learning curve for us in the GSP office and I’d like to think that we’re getting better each year.