An interesting story on an Ivy League student and would-be Rhodes Scholar in The Chronicle of Higher Education

I would say be able to prove. There’s no way the Rhodes committee can check all 250 shortlisted applicants in the 3 weeks before interviews, and they make take-it-or-leave-it offers at the end of that day, without any period for reference checking that would be part of a company’s regular hiring process. So they have to rely on applicants’ honesty, and there will likely be an increased expectation for colleges to validate that their nominees are being truthful.


I’ll be the first to ask this question (and I’m ready for downvotes, etc): personally, I wonder if the “incident” at home (that lead to hospitalization and foster care) was a setup, so MF can be in the position to claim FGLI + foster care.

There, I’ve asked the question out loud. Based on her (repeated) behavior, I can’t help but wonder…


Since she received a Pell Grant I assume she went to U Penn for free. That’s roughly $300k in benefit. :thinking:

As well they should have, since the anonymous e-mail [from former private school classmate(s)] was easy to verify: yes, she attended a private schools. Yes, she she was not on scholarship, she had family money to pay for that private school. She was not low ec in much of her life.


It is certainly possible MF refused other offers of care from her biological or other relatives and requested foster care.


Of course not, since much of the earlier comments in this thread were based on the woman’s (one-sided) complaint. Too many folks were willing to (cast aside critical thinking skills) and just assume that her pov was true.


But she would have been entitled to that as a foster child completing the FAFSA as an independent (no evidence she had her own money).

Yes, that was a pretty big incentive to enter foster care, particularly if her parents would not pay for an expensive private college, and she was able to continue with her private high school and friends there.

Didn’t one of the diary entries mention she had been hoping to live away from her mother for several years before the incident?

I find it suspect that a wealthy child attending a fancy private school ends up in government funded foster care instead of living with a family member or a family of a friend.

ETA: imagine if a girl collapsed at school from injuries sustained from a fight with her parents at your kid’s school. It would be the hot gossip and there would be an out pouring of sympathy and offers to help the child. I struggle to see the kid ending up a ward of the state.


It’s possible that a 17 year old would know that if she accused her mother of abuse that she’d go to foster care, that she’d be able to file FAFSA as an independent person, and thus not have to deal with her parents when trying to finance college. Possible, but not a great plan if that’s what it was. What if they’d sent her to her father’s to live? What if she hadn’t been able to continue at her hs?

Pretty risky plan, but if it was her plan, it worked. That IS the deal when you go to foster care. You do get to file as an independent if you can answer the FAFSA question yes to “Were you in foster care any time after your 13th birthday?”

She got a new start in life. She even got herself a new name (also legal).

She did not have the right to write fiction for her essays. She could have started her life over at 17 and not written about things that happened before she entered foster care.

But shouldn’t the school have investigated that before admitting her at 17? If the application didn’t make sense then (why was she at an expensive private school, why was she working for her step mother if she was in foster care?) why question it 6 years later? Why wasn’t it picked up during her Rhodes application?

Penn did a poor job on the application reviews again and again and again. On the initial application, for grad school and for the Rhodes submittal.


I don’t think Penn had the background information about her mom. They probably assumed she was at the private school on FA. As far as fact checking, her changing her name made that harder than a simple google search.

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Her private school classmate stated they supported and housed MF when she left her mother’s home. Interesting.

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This girl is extraordinally gifted for good and for bad: charming, convincing, academically brilliant as well as deceptive and conniving. I think it is part genetics (her father was described as a pathological liar in the doc) and part nurture (grew up with physical abuse by the father and with either a submissive or abising mother, depending who you believe).

“OSC confirmed that Mackenzie’s family was visited by child welfare officials when she was young, relating to possible abuse by her father”

Regarding relatives - I believe her maternal grandparents lived in the area. The grandfather, who taught opera and singing at the University of Missouri, passed away in 2010 but maybe there was a grandmother and other relatives. The doc did say that she turned down offers to live with other family.

Regarding her original story of abuse being made up - somebody mentioned upthread that the diary contained details of a plan for her to enter foster care. Also, she made some research:

"Fierceton’s biological father, Billy Terrell, worked as an actor during Fierceton’s childhood. Mr. Terrell and Dr. Morrison finalized their divorce when Fierceton was eight. Ostensibly as a result of her father’s behavior during a difficult and contentious divorce, Fierceton discovered how to make hot line calls and learned what a “mandated reporter” was. She also learned that, under Missouri law, teachers were mandated reporters when allegations of abuse were made. "

Fascinating story and very sad! At least, she did not defraud investors of millions of dollars.


May not have been an option once police were involved. A juvenile case is opened, state takes custody. MF was in the hospital and there were claims of abuse. Social services had to be involved.

That is what happened with my daughter’s classmate. The mother actually called the police as her boyfriend was about to hurt the child. The police came and the child went with social services, who immediately placed her with the grandparents. However, a case was opened and the court was involved. The state had legal custody and the grandparents physical custody. Foster care can be a ‘kinship’ placement, which can be a relative or just someone who agrees to care for the child (like a schoolmate’s family) but legal custody stays with the state and they are in ‘foster care.’ The only difference in my state is that licensed foster parents are paid for the care while kinship placements are only paid if they become licensed.

This girl had always gone to our school. The grandmother paid for it. Until the grandparents took custody, the child had moved 3 or 4 times with her mother, living all over the metro area but the steady thing in her life was going to this same school. We all knew her mother and both grandmothers, all active in school activities. We knew her father was in jail, and that her mother had issues. Her mother was actually a nice person, just too many drug problems and relationship issues to raise a child safely.

It’s interesting how terms like “first gen” and “foster care” paint a picture in our heads, but the actual definition is quite different.

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Since you are a lawyer(?) please explain the legal requirement for a nominating institution to provide updates as necessary. I went to the Rhodes website and find no such stated requirement or request. Why would MF’s attorney specifically raise the issue of tortious interference if the university had a legal obligation to remain involved with the process. Thanks in advance for your application.

I don’t understand your statement in reply to me that colleges do not need to have lawyers present when interviewing their students. I never said they did. I said that Penn met with her “without representation - not her designated rep or anyone else - which is contrary to their own procedures.”

I was not referring to a lawyer. I was referring to the advisor that students are entitled to by their own procedures. Professor Rogers Smith, who is involved in her case, was, for example, her designated representative as reported in the article linked earlier in this thread. Here is my source at UPenn for a student’s right to an advisor:

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Mackenzie’s last name was Terrell at birth. Later she was referred to by the last name of Morrison, her mother’s last name. I wonder how that happened. There would seem to be a backstory there.

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It wasn’t a disciplinary action in the beginning ( not brought by a member of the university, not a formal action), it was merely an investigation carried out by the dean/counsel. Eventually, that resulted in a disciplinary action, likely brought upon the complaint of the dean, against MF. I did not see anything stating she sought and was denied access to an advisor during the disciplinary action.

Penn’s obligation to inform the Rhodes trust would be contained in the agreement between Penn as a nominating institution and the Trust. Routine. Given that that whistle-blower separately informed the Trust directly, not sure this matters much in any event.

MF’s lawyer is grasping at straws, but that is his job.


Lots of parents change the name of their children after a divorce, or just start using the mother’s name. It may not be official, but it happens. I used to do name changes as a magistrate. The mother would file, I’d issue the name change order, the father would object and have the name changed back. Lots of fun.

It doesn’t sound like this was an amicable divorce and that they might have fought over all kinds of things, including the last name.

My niece and nephew have my sister’s name as their middle names. Sometimes it is assumed that they have a hyphenated last name, but it isn’t. I’ve seen them listed under the G name (sisters) or under the B name (father). They use what’s convenient for the situation.

No skin in this game, but as a general proposition it is never a good idea to assume that a complaint provides an entirely accurate depiction of either the underlying facts or their legal consequences. This may be especially true when the attorney who signed the complaint posed with a baseball bat on his website.