The Places You′ll Go

By Rachel L. Stinson ’08


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Emily Donelson at the Loreto School, Kolkata, India

In India, Emily Donelson saw families napping, bathing and cooking meals on the sidewalks of Kolkata. In the Big Apple, Merrill Lynch co-workers introduced Rob Kneip not as an intern but as their colleague. Rob Purple and Sean Evins learned about how Memphis FBI agents operate. And Emma O’Hagan discarded every theory she had about tackling poverty in Accra, Ghana. Through internships, five Rhodes seniors faced myriad realities last summer, absorbing all of them into their growing body of knowledge.

Rob Purple and Sean Evins

For Rob Purple and Sean Evins, the first day of a new internship elicited a mutual response: “Holy____! We’re in the FBI!”

Purple, an international studies/economics major from Nashville, and Evins, a political science major and native of Greenville, SC, were the first two interns ever in the Memphis FBI branch.

The friends and fraternity brothers came across the internships through Rhodes Career Services. They applied in May 2006, neither knowing the other was applying. Once they passed the first step, they discovered the coincidence.

“After we were tentatively accepted through our essays and recommendations, we got background checks, drug tests and polygraphs in fall 2006,” Purple says.

For Purple and Evins, the 2½ -hour-long polygraph was a memorable experience. Purple recalls, “You think exams are tough, and then you take a polygraph.”

In January 2007, after learning they had passed, Purple and Evins waited for their background checks to clear. Finally, they both received their clearances.

Purple and Evins were assigned to different squads, each focusing on a specific aspect of FBI work.

“I was assigned to White Collar Crime, which deals with embezzlement and fraud,” Evins says. “Also, I worked with the Public Corruption task force, which included working with the Tennessee Waltz statewide public corruption case. I worked a little with Secret Service and the U.S. Attorney’s office, and I saw trials and some of the pretrial work for different fraud cases.”

Purple worked with “the uglier side of things” when he was assigned to the Violent Crime Squad, or Criminal Enterprise as it is also called.

“That’s the nice way to put it,” he says, laughing. “I was assigned under a specific special agent, and he had me examining cases, looking at evidence, building databases on seized evidence, tracing the original owner of the goods, and more or less following a couple of cases that dealt with drug rings.”

Purple says that work in the FBI differs considerably from the stereotypical police movie, with kicked-down doors and a small army of gun-wielding agents.

But for both seniors, the most memorable experience could have been plucked from an FBI movie.

“On Gun Day, we were able to participate in firearms training at the shooting range at Shelby Farms,” Purple explains.

Aside from Gun Day, Purple enjoyed learning about the many cases the bureau actually handles.

“Working with a lot of big cases got me to see how branches interrelate and work together in the government,” Evins says.

After working on those cases, he created a project on mortgage fraud that his leader took to schools and businesses.

In addition to a top-notch learning experience, the seniors enjoyed excellent office relations.

“There was a mutual respect because everyone had gone through, more or less, the same process and clearance to get where they were,” Purple says.

Now, Purple and Evins are looking toward Washington, DC. Purple will work at a government consulting firm, and Evins will pursue political strategy, with hopes of practicing law eventually.

“It’s interesting to compare what you first think of the FBI and then, after working there, what you really think of it,” Purple says.

Evins adds, “For me, it was very rewarding going to the courthouse and seeing the cases unfold, to see the fruits of your labor.”

Now, Purple and Evins are no longer the new interns at the FBI.

As Purple says, “The fact that they’ve hired seven more interns from Rhodes is a testament to the character of the college.”

Emma O’Hagan

Almost every night, after a day of interning for the Sovereign Global Mission (SGM) in the capital city of Accra, Ghana, Emma O’Hagan sat down with her 60-year-old host grandmother and watched MTV.

The international studies major and music minor spent May 20 to Aug. 1, 2007, across the world, providing first aid to children, teaching them English and finding foster parents for them, as well as working on grant proposals for SGM.

“SGM works with impoverished urban youth within the community, mostly in the worst slums in the city,” O’Hagan says.

Founded in 1992, SGM is a nondenominational, nongovernmental organization that ministers to children with a variety of needs. Some, for instance, can’t afford to go to school, or if they can, many become bored with it and leave. Others are orphaned because of AIDS.

Outside Accra, O’Hagan spent three weeks in a rural Ghana community teaching English and math to the equivalent of a fifth-grade class.

“They hadn’t had a teacher in two weeks because the teacher was sick and there aren’t substitute teachers in rural Ghana,” O’Hagan explains. “There were about 30 students of varying levels. Some of the older kids barely knew the alphabet.”

O’Hagan, a Birmingham, AL, native, applied for the internship through the Mertie W. Buckman International Internship Program in Rhodes’ International Studies Department. Then Peacework, an international volunteer organization headquartered in Blacksburg, VA, found an internship for her with SGM.

Going into Accra, O’Hagan says, “I wanted to learn about the problems and the ways people were trying to fix them.”

She soon realized that the problems there “are so multifaceted that I had to throw most of my preconceived ideas out the window.”

Throughout her stay, O’Hagan lived with a family that included a grandmother, an aunt and three children. She fondly remembers time spent with her host grandmother. Similarly, O’Hagan embraced Ghanaian culture, including local food. She explains that most of the food there contains an abundance of oil because the country suffers from a water crisis; the people use palm oil instead.

“Everything is run by hydroelectric dams, so there’s also an energy crisis,” O’Hagan says. “You get electricity for 24 or 48 hours, and then it’s off for 12.”

When O’Hagan left Ghana, her host family hadn’t had running water in nine months. Instead, a water truck came to the house every couple of weeks.

Despite the lack of modern conveniences, O’Hagan meshed into the laid-back Ghanaian way of life. She says, “My favorite thing is that when you visit people, you just show up at their house. They may have never met you before. They’ll sit down and talk to you for hours. Also, Ghanaians accept that if a person is tardy, he or she simply has been giving time to someone else.People call it ‘African Time.’”

During O’Hagan’s stay, Leigh Bonner ’07 lived in Ghana, interning for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The friends traveled for a week in the northern part of the country, staying in a small village in a guest house, sleeping on a roof.

Bonner took drumming lessons from musicians at The Arts Centre in Accra, and O’Hagan occasionally accompanied her. O’Hagan recalls, “There were people playing soccer, and the Gulf of Guinea was right there as we learned how to play Ghanaian-style drumming. I remember one time it started to rain, and the drummers were listening to Celine Dion.”

O’Hagan says she hopes to teach at a similar school in India this fall.

Rob Kneip

The day after Rob Kneip returned from a 2007 international business Maymester in Belgium, he hopped another plane—this time to his home city of New York, where he would be introduced not as an intern but as a colleague.

An international business major with a Chinese studies minor, Kneip had also studied in China for a semester. But from June to mid-August 2007, he left academics behind to enter the world of finance at Merrill Lynch.

Rhodes helped him find the internship.

“I had talked with Matt Semko ’98 (Rhodes assistant director of Alumni Relations), and he made contact with Merrill Lynch,” Kneip says.

When Kneip arrived at Merrill Lynch, he worked in the wealth management department, mainly in the Reserve Share Program.

He brought with him a solid base in finance from Rhodes: “Prof. Pittman’s finance class and Prof. Planchon’s marketing class helped a lot and gave me confidence going into the internship.”

When he began, Merrill Lynch was busy opening more than 500 accounts for the Reserve Share Program. After conquering that mountain of documents, “It was all research and choosing mutual funds portfolios,” Kneip says. “I had to choose whether they would be stock-based or bond-based. Then, I had to defend my choices to the team. As I grew, so did my responsibilities—they gave me a lot more authority than I expected.”

Looking back to his first meeting with the portfolio managers, Kneip recalls that he didn’t say a single word. But when supervisors encouraged him to ask questions, he spoke up, and eventually “found myself in a position of power.”

Kneip also grew to know his co-workers outside of the office.

“The line between colleague and intern blurred when we started hanging out,” he says. “I got to know the people even better outside of the office.”

Kneip’s internship ended at the summer’s close, but he keeps up to date with his Merrill Lynch colleagues.

“I go to see them all the time when I’m in the city,” he says.

Though he enjoyed the personal aspect of his internship, Kneip says he wants to pursue more business-to-business interactions in his future career.

Emily Donelson

On her taxi ride from the Kolkata airport to the city, Emily Donelson spotted 12 people in an autorickshaw driven by one man. Bicycles, small scooters, people on foot, cows and chickens were all part of the traffic.

The international studies major and religious studies minor arrived in India in June 2007. For the next eight weeks, she interned at the Loreto School in Kolkata, one of six such schools in the city. (Kolkata, known as Calcutta for 300 years, was officially renamed in 2001 to reflect the Bengali pronunciation.)
Like Emma O’Hagan, Donelson landed the internship through Rhodes’ Buckman International Internship Program. Peacewok made arrangements with the Loreto School.

“The first time I heard that was an option, I knew that was definitely where I wanted to go,” Donelson says. “Kolkata is a very different India from what you’d find in Delhi or other cities with higher economic growth.”

The Loreto School aims to address socioeconomic and educational problems, most of which begin with poverty. The school has grown tremendously since it was established in 1842 by the Loreto Sisters, a religious order founded in 1609 by Englishwoman Mary Ward.

“Half the students pay tuition, and the other half come from families that can’t afford to send their children to a private school,” Donelson says.

Through its Rainbow Homes project, Loreto houses and ministers to more than 100 girls who used to live on the streets. Additionally, Loreto trains teachers for rural schools and gives aid to other children and the elderly. There are 1,000 students enrolled in the school.\

The principal is Sister Cybil, a nun from Ireland who has led Loreto for more than 40 years. She assigned Donelson the task of organizing the school library. In addition, Donelson taught English to a group of 15-20 Rainbow children, aged two to four.

Donelson lived at the school, wore traditional clothing, craved Indian food and adapted to local ways. Electricity and running water were accessible only two hours a day, so she bathed in a bucket. In a country where temperatures reach 115 degrees, there was no air conditioning. At night, Donelson slept one room away from the Rainbow children.

The children, with their scarred backgrounds, touched Donelson profoundly.

“I probably learned as much from them as they learned from me, and the lessons I learned were incredibly humbling,” she says.
Donelson describes the children as “amazingly happy with what they have.” Once, she was helping a young girl write an essay about three things she liked and three things she didn’t like.

“She said she liked her friend, and she liked a book, she liked the sunshine,” Donelson recalls. “She went on and on and on, and she couldn’t think of a single thing she didn’t like. This girl is an orphan who lived on the streets for the first four years of her life, and she couldn’t think of anything bad.”

Now, Donelson is preparing to expand her international knowledge. This fall, she’ll pursue a master’s degree in international relations at the University of Chicago. Her time in Kolkata will, no doubt, remain with her.

“We hear of people living on one or two dollars a day,” Donelson says, “but we don’t necessarily know about people who raise their families on the street in front of you.”

The internship, she says, “put a face to every figure.”

At the Loreto School, each face was that of a girl with a past—but also a girl with a future.



 

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