Francesca Davis ’08
I′m from Memphis. I′ve been here my whole life. But I didn′t really know about Rhodes until my senior year in high school. After getting some information from an admissions counselor, I signed up to stay overnight with a friend. I just loved the campus and the idea of being in small classes where I would be in contact with my professors. I found out about the curriculum and thought, "Wow! This is intense." I didn′t want to spend four years just floating through college. I wanted a challenge, something new and different. And when I walked onto this campus, I didn′t feel like I was in Memphis anymore.
Interestingly, I think the Crossroads to Freedom project (a digital archive about the Civil Rights Movement in Memphis) has opened my eyes to the history of my city and reconnected me. The project expands what Rhodes is doing inside our gates to the outside community. It is making connections with Memphis by sustaining and passing on information and knowledge to others, especially our youth. I knew about Elvis and Otis Redding, but this project gave me a chance to meet people like Eddie Mae Hawkins and Lynne Turley, people I can relate to and aspire to be like someday. And being a part of and hearing people′s stories about such a pivotal moment in history has helped me understand the historical importance of Memphis and given me so much pride and satisfaction in being a Memphian.
Rhodes has challenged me academically, intellectually, emotionally—in every way. As a psychology major, minoring in education and African American studies, I′ve discovered how broad a liberal arts education is, in one sense, and yet the depth it has. I′m able to read a passage in class and discuss it for hours, and that can be applied to whatever I do. For example, as a teacher, being able to critically analyze what best suits my children in the curriculum will definitely be a major advantage. I′m also excited about studying psychology and education in Denmark this semester. I want to learn about their unique way of educating youth, then hopefully apply it to my own classroom someday.
One of my favorite classes here at Rhodes was African-American history with Professor Charles McKinney. He focused a great deal on grassroots movements, which helped me view history in a different way and made me more excited about studying—though I′m not usually a fan of history! Philosophy of education, taught by Professor Patrick Shade, was another amazing class. As he conveyed his passion for his field, it made me consider my role as a teacher more seriously. I was especially impressed by Paulo Freire’s book Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Freire was a Brazilian who was very progressive and open-minded. His views got me thinking how different I would feel about education if I had felt like an oppressed citizen in the classroom.
My experiences at Rhodes have also been shaped somewhat by the difficulties I had adjusting during my first year. I was very much in my own world and timid about certain things. Then I stepped outside of my box. I got heavily involved in the Black Student Association, including the community service activities it sponsors. I also was a Snowden Adopt-a-Friend during my sophomore year and did Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Then my RA [resident assistant] helped me become an RA as a sophomore. And I loved the experience of mentoring first-year students and learning to deal with different people and different problems. Later, I was a PA [peer assistant] during Orientation and worked on the advising pilot committee. I had an awesome adviser my first year, and I want to ensure that students coming behind me have advisers like mine, who are well trained and serve as mentors.
I also really appreciate the relationship I have with Professor Anita Davis. I′ve done research with her on the campus climate, which could be the catalyst for wonderful conversations about diversity issues here on campus. I also serve as the Rhodes Student Associate for African-American studies, which Dr. Davis chairs. We have a lot in common. We’re like-minded people in many ways, but she is able to challenge me to look at things differently. When I feel “set in stone, she′ll say, "Try looking at it from this way. This may be better for you."
Thanks to all these experiences, I can say that I really do see myself in the Rhodes Vision statement. I want to continue pursuing knowledge in my field—education. And after four years, I feel I′ll be more open-minded and respectful of others′ opinions. I′ve been put in the position, and I’ve put myself in positions, where I′m forced to step outside of my comfort zone and sit down and listen to someone of a different religious or political perspective. Being a student here has definitely molded me, and is in the process of molding me, to be a person that I feel will be an asset to the community and to my field in the future. Looking at myself as a first-year and now as a junior, I know I have changed for the better. I also know that when I graduate, I will be prepared to enter the workforce and capable of competing with people from other top schools.
"Francesca was one of my students in middle and high school. I am so pleased about her progress and have always known about her talents and skills. I′m proud to know her and happy to see Rhodes, my alma mater, have an impact on her as well." - Candace Martin ′71