The Right Fit
When Rhodes parents say they love the college, believe it. They mean that, after a long search for the best college for their student, they’ve found the right “fit”—everything they were looking for—at Rhodes. The academics, personal relationships with faculty and newfound friends, extracurricular activities, the sheer beauty of the place, not to mention life outside the gates in the city of Memphis, are undeniable factors in their decision-making.
As more than one parent will tell you, this “fit” makes it easy to love and become involved in the life of the college. Make no mistake—these aren’t “helicopter parents”; rather, they’re valued advisers, communicators and recruiters who believe in the college and its vision, and will take Rhodes’ message to the ends of the earth.
For many families, finding the right college for their student is like researching a dissertation. The topic is a given, but out of more than 2,000 four-year colleges and universities in the U.S., where do they begin?
Most start with the basics. They seek the advice of alumni relatives and friends. They attend college fairs and schedule campus visits. Ultimately, many read the book Colleges That Change Lives. Written in 1996 by former New York Times education editor Loren Pope and most recently revised in 2012, it profiles 40 top liberal arts colleges, including Rhodes, that the author deemed superior to Ivy League institutions.
“The phrase ‘Ivy League education’ is an oxymoron when compared to the benefactions to mind and soul the colleges in this book bestow,” Pope wrote. “Not only are they better, but they want you, and you will love them for making a new and better you. Your satisfaction will be lifelong.”
Intrigued by their findings, many prospective Rhodes students and their families take the next step—a campus visit. At Rhodes, this is often the deal maker, and for more than a few, a chance meeting with President Bill Troutt during the tour is the icing on the cake.
Says Maria Farahani who visited from Austin, TX, with her daughter Leila ’13, then a high school senior, “As we waited for our taxi to leave, a friendly and smiling gentleman who was unloading boxes from his car approached us. After some great conversation we were surprised to find out that we had been talking to the president, Dr. Troutt himself, who had gone the extra mile for us.”
When New Orleanians Sarah and George Young and their daughter, Charlotte, now a Rhodes senior, made a campus visit, they were in the dining hall when “an attractive man in a bow tie approached us and welcomed us warmly to Rhodes,” Sarah recalls. “It turned out that the man in the bow tie having lunch in the midst of hundreds of Rhodes students was the president of the college, Bill Troutt.”
Bill Troutt’s presence and words of welcome are not lost on any campus visitor. He remembers everyone he meets, which certainly eases the way for families interested in becoming involved in the Rhodes community.
Rhodes Chapters—groups of alumni and parents around the country—are eager to welcome new parents into the fold. Chapter members recruit students, participate in fundraising and host career networking events along with yield parties for prospective students who have applied to Rhodes, as well as summer send-offs for new Lynx.
J. Carey Thompson, vice president for enrollment and communications and dean of admission, says that parents of current students “are indispensable to our efforts. They know the college, they know families in their area, and know what kind of students we’re looking for. We’re very appreciative of their help.”
The Parent Council is another group involved in the life of the college. Laine Royer ’07, assistant director of annual giving, oversees the council.
“The Parent Council this year includes 72 households,” says Royer. In addition to fundraising and recruiting, council members establish internships for current students, take part in career networking and hire alumni when they can. Equally valuable services include providing feedback and voicing the concerns and opinions of parents to the college.
Royer knows whereof she speaks. Her parents, Mike and Shelley Royer of Houston, are past members of the Parent Council.
“While my brother, Brooks ’10, and I both went to Rhodes, my parents served on the Parent Council for seven years,” says Laine. “To this day, they attend many of the recruitment, yield and summer send-off events. My dad, along with other parents in Houston, helped put together a career networking event. Both of them have been Houston Chapter volunteers, and were named Volunteers of the Year at Homecoming 2010.”
Patricia Shiland, James Park and Devon Shiland ’15 ˜ New York, NY
“Devon and our family first learned about Rhodes at her boarding school’s college information session,” says Patricia Shiland. “There was a panel discussion and a panel member suggested that every family should buy the book Colleges That Change Lives by Loren Pope. We were probably one of the few families that actually went to buy the book. We read about Rhodes and it really spoke to us.
“Devon knew from the start that she didn’t want to attend a liberal arts college in the Northeast. She didn’t just want an extension of her boarding school experience. She was looking for strong academics, access to professors (not teaching assistants) and a Greek component, all on a beautiful college campus. And lest I forget ... nearby should be an interesting city (since she is a native New Yorker)! Quite a tall order! Rhodes fit the bill perfectly. The minute she stepped onto campus, she knew she liked it. From that very first day, and throughout the selection process, Devon was always warmly welcomed. As parents, our questions were answered promptly and with warmth.
“We became involved with Rhodes when we experienced her first year. Rhodes is a fabulous college with so much to offer its students. We’ve always believed in the importance of supporting our children’s schools. But with Rhodes, it’s easy. We love the school and see how much Devon has grown just in this short time.”
Sarah, George and Charlotte Young ’13 ˜ New Orleans, LA
“Rhodes enjoys a strong academic reputation in New Orleans and that is what first drew us and our daughter, Charlotte, to want to take a closer look,” says Sarah Young. “Charlotte’s cousin, Mathilde Semmes ’10, who was in her third year at Rhodes, also encouraged Charlotte. Mathilde was enjoying the academically challenging curriculum, travel abroad, singing with the choir and sorority life. Since then, Charlotte and Mathilde’s brothers, Joe ’13 and Rob ’14, have also enrolled at Rhodes. They have made it very easy for their grandparents to visit their college-aged grandchildren at school!
“Our impression from the start was of a place where doing things the best way possible seemed to matter a great deal. It is a beautiful campus, and it is immediately apparent that a great deal of thought has gone into its planning and expansion.
“Our appreciation for Bill Troutt’s ‘hands on’ leadership increased even more when he personally called Charlotte to encourage her during the admission process. We are continually impressed with his leadership, grace and good humor.
“We got involved early in Charlotte’s time at Rhodes by accepting an invitation to join the Parent Council. We meet on campus twice a year and assist in fundraising and recruitment activities. It has been a pleasure to help in these areas so critical to the success of the college. Everyone is so positive about Rhodes that it makes our volunteer efforts easy.
“We were active in the school both our daughters attended in New Orleans, from room parenting to serving on the board. Being involved with Rhodes has made our experience with the college richer than we could have imagined.”
Maria, Manny and Leila Farahani ’13 ˜ Austin, TX
Maria Farahani says her daughter, Leila, first learned of Rhodes through Colleges That Change Lives. “Soon after reading it, she received an invitation to apply to the college, and she did. She knew a national liberal arts school would be the best choice for her. We decided to visit colleges once she had narrowed down her choices to three schools. Before our visit, we told Leila to be aware of the ‘signs’ she would experience as she visited them.
“We arrived at Rhodes on a beautiful spring morning when the campus was dressed in magnificent blooms; everyone we encountered—students, faculty and staff—were extremely friendly and helpful; everyone seemed happy and engaged. The admission counselor she visited with had great insight. It was all a very positive experience. Outside campus, in the Memphis area, we felt we were being treated with deference as people heard we were there to visit Rhodes, as if we were part of a special group.
“Leila loves Rhodes—the small classes, the wonderful friends she has made—it has been a very positive experience. She has changed her major a few times and always felt there were faculty ready to support her in any direction. She has gone from art, to psychology, to pre-med to art history. She has been involved in Lecture Board, Activities Board and her sorority. While on a family medical trip to Nicaragua last summer, she discovered the magic of using ultrasound to detect vein blockage in patients with varicose veins and became fascinated with this type of outpatient care. I can see her leaning in that direction for grad school.
“Rhodes has been a character-building experience for our daughter. She has met unique individuals both among her peers and her professors. We have felt the love and support of the Rhodes community and are forever grateful.
“We have always been very involved in the schools our children have attended. Our first opportunity to ally ourselves with Rhodes was the Parent Council, which we joined almost as soon as our daughter entered Rhodes. That allowed us more of an insider’s view and many opportunities to serve the community. We have particularly enjoyed hosting prospective students and their parents and summer send-off parties in our home. We love sharing all the good experiences we have had at Rhodes with soon-to-be-students and parents.
“Through our involvement, Rhodes honored us by inviting me to join the Board of Trustees, which has been an unforgettable experience. Rhodes is a one-of-a-kind place.”
Nancy, Mike, Meghan ’07 and Laura Hofto ’10 ˜ Mobile, AL
Nancy Hofto says she “had a terrific college experience at the University of Alabama, but my two daughters’ years at Rhodes topped it. Although I had wonderful friends and a great education, opportunities to look beyond the self are greater at a college like Rhodes.
“While I never knew of anyone who studied abroad, Meghan had a wonderful experience at the University of Stirling in Scotland. She took a British literature course that focused on works from the early 1800s, and she traveled throughout Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Laura took advantage of the opportunity to study abroad, too. During her junior year, she studied in Prague for a semester and traveled extensively, learning the Czech language and culture.
“Both my daughters were actively involved in service opportunities. They tutored and served as mentors in neighborhood schools, volunteered at the Regional Medical Center, and one year, Meghan coordinated the Tex-Mex trip. I see a tremendous benefit in these activities. Not only do they teach compassion, they help the volunteers come to understand their own strengths and weaknesses.
“I have been truly amazed by the relationships between my daughters and the Rhodes faculty. In my day, we went to class and took our notes, but my girls’ experience went far beyond that.
“Both Meghan and Laura participated in research and published papers with chemistry professor Mauricio Cafiero. He arranged a summer research opportunity for Laura at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, where she had a fabulous and unique opportunity. He was a wonderful mentor to both of them.
“The strong Rhodes education the girls received prepared them well for acceptance to, and academic success in, professional schools. Meghan, who received her M.D. from the University of Tennessee at Memphis, is now a resident in pediatrics at a hospital in Cincinnati, and Laura is in her third year of dental school at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
“It was not easy for me to let go and allow my girls to make their own mistakes and decisions. Like every other parent, part of me believes they will need the benefit of my wisdom and experience when they are 85! Still, I do not disagree with a single decision they have made, and I know of occasions when they worked through difficult situations on their own with the help of the staff at Rhodes. So we helicopter parents will just have to learn to back off, to give them space and support.
“One thing that made that easier for Mike and me was getting involved in the Rhodes community. We have served on the Parent Council and the Mobile Chapter, and we always looked forward to the summer send-offs. Through these activities we have gotten to know the Rhodes alumni in this area who are genuinely nice people, whose character and integrity shine through. Plus, they are fun to be around. Every time I am with them I think, ‘I’m glad my daughters attended Rhodes!’”