AMHERST, Mass. – Patricia Fox, of Westford, who graduated this month from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a degree in civil engineering, is a complicated and talented young woman. She qualified this spring to be a cheerleader for the New England Patriots football team. She also has a passion for historic preservation – the field she desires to work in as a professional engineer. And this year, Fox traveled to Kenya to help provide clean drinking water for about 3,000 people in the western part of the country. The trip was organized by the UMass Amherst chapter of Engineers Without Borders, an organization that works in Third World countries.
Fox says all of her collegiate activities have required concentration, practice and perseverance. She was also a member of the UMass Amherst Dance Team for four years, and says that experience has been a great help in surviving the grueling tryouts with the Patriots’ cheerleading team.
During the tryout, beginning in early March, two dance combinations were taught to 300 candidates during a preliminary audition process. Participants performed the combinations in small groups for a panel of judges. “The tryouts were certainly a tough challenge,” says Fox, noting that the field went from about 300 women to the final 25 who made it. “We had to perform routines with a few days to practice them and perform them perfectly every time. These routines, coupled with cardio training, made for some of the hardest practices I have experienced thus far, but every second was certainly fun and enjoyable.”
During the two weeks between preliminary and final auditions, the finalists were asked to report to Gillette Stadium for personal interviews with Tracy Sormanti, the team’s cheerleader director. At final auditions, they were asked to perform the routines they learned at preliminaries. Each finalist also performed a short freestyle combination with her own choreography, showcasing her personal style. In addition, all the finalists were taught, and were required to perform, a kick-line combination and an optional tumbling pass.
“The tryouts were about five weeks long,” says Fox, “and it was very tough waiting to hear each week if I made it to the next round. Luckily, as you can tell, I made it onto the best cheerleading team in the NFL!”
Since the Patriots Cheerleaders team is only a part-time job, Fox doesn’t expect it to interfere with her longtime engineering ambitions in historic preservation. For the last several years, she has stayed in touch with the Simpson Gumpertz & Heger (SGH) company from Waltham, Mass., a national award-winning engineering firm that designs, investigates and rehabilitates structures and building enclosures.
“I have recently talked to human resources at SGH and we are working with several options,” Fox says. “I do not know exactly what they are interested in having me do, but I will be contacted again soon.”
Meanwhile, Fox also says she wants to put her engineering knowledge to use helping others. She got a taste of this when she went to Kenya this year on a team of students from the campus chapter of Engineers Without Borders. “My job there was to teach water-related hygiene,” she says. “I lectured about water hygiene to more than 300 high school students, all in one room, and gave them ways to improve their sanitation procedures. They’re incredibly hospitable and what I loved about teaching them was they always had so many great questions.”
Looking back, Fox credits her experience on the UMass Dance Team for her success in making the Patriots cheerleaders. In four years on the UMass squad she worked her way up to the practice captain, meaning she basically served as the coach, music director and choreographer. “The UMass Dance Team kept me in shape and sharp with my dancing,” she says. “I was also able to get the experience of performing at football games and learn several cheers, which I feel further aided me.”