Joshua Deaton ’11
Hometown: Danielsville, GA
Fun fact: “During exams…that’s when running is the best.”
When Joshua Deaton ’11 made his initial study abroad research proposal to the Buckman Center for International Education, he intended to travel to Uganda and study media tensions. His love for writing as a means of teaching and public service developed out of a first-year English class at Rhodes. How he would utilize this interest required some contemplation over his first and second years.
Yet, once in Uganda, an encounter with a group of Olympians running in the mountains one morning upended all planning. “Studying media will be hard” they advised him, because of censorship and other obstacles. “Live with us and study athletics.” This time, Deaton’s decision had to be more hurried. “It seems like an obvious choice now. Stay with the Olympians.”
Josh drafted a new research proposal to study athletics, submitted it to the study abroad program for approval, and began interviewing members of the Uganda National Cross Country Team and the Olympic Committee. Unsure of the cogency of his research for a while, he was ecstatic when he subsequently saw a UNICEF video featuring Moses Kipsiro, most recent winner of Commonwealth Gold medals in 5k and 10k, proclaiming a message of “stay in school and be healthy.” And there was his “Ah-ha!” moment.
Josh began to study running as a form of community involvement and began to explore its possibilities as an agent for change. Some runners use their talents to promote education. In Uganda, elite runners will travel to other countries for competition then return to their communities and say “Let me tell you about this place, and pay for your food and school fees while I do it.” In the United States acquaintances like Ryan Hall, professional marathoner and cofounder of the Hall Steps Foundation, use their winnings and experiences to promote social justice and education programs. Ugandan runners are simply attempting this with a lack of publicity or local business sponsorship.
After spending a year or two working in marketing–and promotional-related jobs, Josh plans to return to Uganda and begin to connect runners there with businesses–a sort of celebrity endorsement pact, wherein famous Olympians and Ugandan runners endorse businesses that, in turn, endorse that runner’s cause, be it education, political justice or any goal on the spectrum of improving life for impoverished Ugandans.
By combining his love of running with his opportunities to travel abroad through the Buckman and Gilman study abroad scholarships, Josh finds himself on a career path forged by his unique Rhodes experiences. “Rhodes has this atmosphere that expects its members to excel,” he says. “I just want to use the experiences and training I’ve gotten here, and live up to those expectations, by communicating perspectives that can enhance those of others.”