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Catherine Appleton ′11

Hometown: Pegram, TN
Major: Mathematics and Economics bridge
Fun Fact: Likes to run half-marathons

When you first decided to come to Rhodes, you weren’t planning to become a Math-Econ bridge major. What did you see yourself studying?

When I first came to Rhodes, I didn’t know what I wanted to study. I liked math, and I had taken a lot of it in high school so I continued to take it once I got to Rhodes. While I knew that math was an area I wanted to pursue, I didn’t really know if I wanted to do something else outside of math as well. I thought math could be a major or a minor or something like that, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted it to be my sole focus.

You went on a Rhodes Maymester to India this past summer. What appealed to you about the Rhodes program there?

Prior to going on the Maymester, I took a Religious Studies course taught by Professor (Michelle) Voss-Roberts called “Living Religions of India.” I really loved the class, and even though I was a math major, I was still interested in exploring other disciplines. The Maymester in India focused on theatre and religion in India, and so it complemented my “Living Religions of India” class very well. I wanted to go abroad and the opportunity to participate in a program that perfectly fit with my interest in Religious Studies inspired me to pursue that Maymester.

You decided to extend your time abroad for the entire summer. Tell us about that.

After being accepted to participate in the Rhodes Maymester to India, I decided I wanted to stay abroad for the whole summer. Having discovered my interest in economics through my declared Math-Economics bridge major, I applied for internships in microfinance, which would allow me to continue my time abroad learning about economics and poverty alleviation. I was accepted to a program in Bangladesh and spent the rest of my time working with a microfinance company there.

Would you say your bridge major, combined with your trip to India, has helped you prepare for life after graduation?

Definitely. The bridge major allowed me to pursue my love of mathematics while exploring a different discipline at the same time. And by giving Econ a try after the Rhodes Maymester, I was able to discover my passion for development economics. I have been accepted into a fellowship program in which I will be working with social enterprises in India for nine months doing development work.

My experience in India, as well as my internship in Bangladesh, helped me develop a better idea of what I wanted to do after graduation because I was able to find a career area that incorporates math, economics, and my interest in poverty alleviation. It’s important to me to be able to use math in an area outside of pure mathematics, and the bridge major allowed me to add something more applied to my degree.

You played a role in the creation of Rhodes’ first intentional community, the Ruka. Tells us a little about that effort.

The community has been an amazing experience that has allowed me to not only build relationships within my house, but also reach out into the Memphis community in a way I never would have otherwise. Although the community is not directly related to my major in any specific way, the service aspect of the community, serving at Caritas Village every week, has allowed me to apply my passion for development economics in a different way within the Memphis community. My time volunteering at Caritas has allowed me to build relationships with the people who frequent Caritas, as well as the children who come to the afterschool program, which strives to uphold the goals of Caritas Village. One of those goals being to break down racial barriers, which is an important aspect in the development and sustainability of any community.

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