Tevari Butler ′08
Hometown: Munford, TN
Solid Gold: Tevari has a job in her chosen field—health care administration—that grew out of an internship
You have had an outstanding career at Rhodes. Did all your activities and honors come easily to you?
Hardly. My first year was tough—so tough I strongly considered transferring. I made straight As in high school without studying so I was stunned by the difficulty of the work here. And I didn’t find the social network I assumed would be easy to build. I was socially stressed and academically challenged. It was miserable.
You’re still here so something must have changed.
Exactly. Two things changed: Rhodes and me. The campus is very different today. Multicultural recruitment has been a major priority and the effort has paid off. There are more students of color here than at any time in the history of the college, and there will be another increase next year.
And you changed as well?
I sure did. I learned to take hold of myself and find chances to make a difference. I learned pretty quickly that my problems didn’t just come down to color. There are so many issues that affect a college experience. And, thanks to three remarkable role models I learned that I need to be a person who steps up and works for change that I want to see on campus.
Who were your role models?
Professor Tina Barr helped me through my sophomore year by giving me fresh perspectives both in and outside of class. Working as a student associate in the Development Office I watched the newly promoted vice president, Jenna Goodloe Wade, take over the department and question how things were done. I was so impressed by her strength and character as a young female professional. She also taught me how to be a great alum, which I look forward to. And a recent class with Professor Dee Birnbaum taught me how much I value the analytical approach. She makes everything real life!
So how did you work for change?
As president of the Black Student Association I made the theme of my year “Dispelling the Myths.” We focused our efforts on getting more of the campus community involved in BSA events. My senior year as president of the National Pan-Hellenic Council I worked closely with Amanda Cellini, president of the Panhellenic Council, and Jacob Harvey, president of the Interfraternity Council, to establish that all three organizations represent the Greek community on campus. In the past there had been a division between the other two councils and the NPHC, and we intentionally worked to eliminate it this year. One of the planned activities for Greek Week was a step contest, which although we didn’t quite pull it off, was a great “step” in the right direction. It was an opportunity for African American students to teach white students how to step and for the White students to experience a tradition they never felt a part of.
So you’re glad you came to Rhodes after all?
For the most part. I have grown so much as a person, have discovered abilities I never knew I had and made relationships that will last all my life. The “Rhodes bubble” is very conducive to that—we are a small, close-knit community and we’re always challenging each other. Even when we don’t agree, we come away from discussions with new ways of thinking about things. Where will I ever find this after Rhodes?