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Rhodes-Plough Partnership Continues

Publication Date: 3/10/2010

The Plough Foundation has awarded Rhodes College a $750,000 grant to continue its support of the college’s model for neighborhood development and revitalization. The grant, to be paid over three years, will allow Rhodes to work with the communities that are its closest neighbors. The funding is in addition to the Foundation’s establishment of the Plough Professorship of Urban Studies at Rhodes in 2005.

The grant will focus on the Midtown North area, which encompasses the Hollywood, Hyde Park and Springdale neighborhoods, situated just north of the Rhodes campus, and the Vollintine-Evergreen Community Association (VECA), which includes the campus within its boundaries.  Rhodes describes this area as the “Learning Corridor,” where the college’s students and faculty work in partnership with community members and organizations to enhance neighborhood capacity-building.  Rhodes also works closely with its three adopted schools in the community, Snowden Elementary and Middle, Cypress Middle and Springdale Elementary, to enrich the learning opportunities for students.

“We began partnering with community members and stakeholders in the Midtown North community as we established our Community Outreach Partnership Center with funding from HUD in 2004,” recalls Dr. Michael Kirby, Plough Professor of Urban Studies at Rhodes. “Since then, we have strived to listen to residents about productive and mutually beneficial partnership opportunities.” Dorothy Cox, Rhodes College Learning Corridor Liaison, has provided leadership in the form of a community resident, and has worked tirelessly with Rhodes students, faculty and community members to build coalitions and offer programs that improve living and learning conditions in this vital section of Memphis while allowing Rhodes students to employ the skills they learn in class.

“VECA, in many ways a microcosm of Memphis, reflects the city’s racial makeup (58 percent black, 39 percent white), median income ($35,143 in 2007) and home ownership rate (56 percent),” says Dr. Suzanne Bonefas, director of special programs at Rhodes. Founded in 1970, VECA was a trailblazer in biracial neighborhood organizations and at one time had a strong community development corporation (CDC).

The project’s goals are to expand the work of Rhodes faculty and students in VECA and Midtown North by launching and sustaining additional results-oriented programs that promote neighborhood coalitions and by increasing opportunities for Rhodes students and recent graduates to work with residents and learn leadership and community-building skills.

“Ultimately, this partnership with The Plough Foundation will build Rhodes’ capacity to help Memphians work toward and sustain healthy, safe and positive environments in which to live and work,” says Dr. Russell Wigginton, Rhodes vice president for college relations.

Rhodes and its community partners will accomplish these goals through three key activities:

  • Internships for recent graduates, who will assist the Plough Professor and the Rhodes Learning Corridor Community Liaison in working with undergraduates and with community residents, businesses and organizations
  • Supporting programs for business development and community leadership.
  • Fellowships for Rhodes students, who will work with faculty, staff and postgraduate interns on targeted neighborhood revitalization projects or programs

“The ‘Transforming Memphis Neighborhoods While Transforming Rhodes’ project fits beautifully within the Rhodes Vision,” says college president William E. Troutt who recently completed 10 years at the helm of the nationally recognized liberal arts college. Wigginton adds, “To more strategically connect community-based learning to students’ liberal arts education, Rhodes is developing a comprehensive fellowship program. We define a fellowship as an activity outside the conventional classroom that complements and broadens the student’s program of liberal arts education. Examples include internships, community service, study abroad and independent or collaborative research/creative activity. By providing a platform for students’ work in the community, these fellowships are transforming Memphis neighborhoods while transforming the student fellows and the overall learning community at Rhodes.”

Tags: Grants, President, Service


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