Colleges are typically flexible when it comes to student schedules. If you like to sleep in or you prefer to get as many of your classes out of the way early, that can be possible.
At the United States Military Academy at West Point you must be at the mess hall for breakfast by 7 a.m. or as early as 6:30 a.m. if officers are scheduled to inspect the cadets’ gray uniforms. Classes are 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. with an hour to two break for lunch and to catch up on homework or other duties.
After 4 p.m. is two hours of military training determined by the company leader. Mandatory dinner is from 6-7 p.m. Evenings are free for homework or to attend special lectures with speakers ranging from a Nobel Laureate in literature to a three-star general.
Adjusting to this schedule was not easy for Joseph Foss, who graduated from St. Francis High School in 2009.
“I’ve always liked having my own freedom and forming my schedule, so it has been difficult trying to get used to the regimented schedule,” Foss said. “They place a lot of importance on where you need to be, when you need to be there and having the proper uniform.”
Foss, 22, said anyone looking at his transcript could see he struggled more as a freshman than a senior, but he has done quite well and he is slated to graduate in the top 5 to 10 percent of West Point’s class of 2014 with a double major and double honors in economics and math.
“We’re very excited for him. It’s gone so fast,” said his mother Deni Foss. She and her husband Doug still live in Nowthen and have another son and a daughter, who is in the Minnesota National Guard and is going to school to be an emergency medical technician.
Foss’ life at West Point went beyond the classroom. He played on his company’s intramural basketball team for three years before becoming a coaching assistant this year. He jumped out of a plane in the airborne school.
A lot of people were influential in making sure he was successful, from fellow cadets in his company to teachers. Public speaking was not something he was good at before West Point, but being around articulate cadets who were planning to be Army officers helped him made great strides in this area, according to Foss.
“I personally used to speak very haltingly, very slowly and have a difficult time getting my message across,” Foss said. “However, constantly interacting with these people I’ve learned to speak more fluidly.”
Once he receives his degree from West Point next spring, he will be have at least five years of service in the Army. He will be assigned as an officer to an air defense base.
“There I’ll lead probably 30 soldiers and be in charge of around $20 million worth of missiles,” he said.
Even if he remains in the Army beyond five years, Foss would like to get his law degree with a focus on campaign finance law or regulatory law, or he may pursue a doctorate in economics.
Politics deeply interest him. Before enrolling at West Point, he spent a year at the University of Minnesota studying a variety of subjects, including politics, Middle Eastern politics, Farsi and its culture and engineering.
Foss is interested most in Iran. It has had an interesting history being a part of multiple empires over the years. There is an interplay of religion and politics that influences its decisions today. It has supported Hezbollah and Syria and has attempted to develop a nuclear weapon. It has a large natural supply of oil that could provide more global competition and it controls the Strait of Hormuz that is an important corridor for transporting oil.
He is fascinated about the math behind the architecture and geometric patterns found in Iran. It has some of the best ski slopes in the world, but people would not know that people tourism is not a big industry, Foss said.
While he was in high school, Foss attended a Harvard summer school program and took two classes in political philosophy and psychology of influence.
“I enjoy working with charity, volunteering, helping people individually,” he said. “Public policy has the ability to effect a lot of people with simple policy.”
Foss believes public policy could improve if people looked at the hard numbers rather than the “fuzzy sciences” of public opinion polls, he said.
“I’d like to use math and economics, a more hard, quantitative science to really pinpoint effective public policy,” Foss said.
Eric Hagen is at firstname.lastname@example.org