Ian Preston ′13
Hometown: Nashville, TN
Major: Environmental Studies & Sciences
Extracurricular Activities: Bonner Scholar, PA, iPA, Rhodekill Ultimate, Sigma Nu Fraternity.
I have been working with Livable Memphis to determine the conditions of sidewalks in Memphis, compared to other cities. For example, who is in charge of repairing them and how much would it cost to fix them to improve the safety of people with disabilities? Efficient methods of transportation and issues of mobility are interests that I plan to pursue in my graduate study.
Tell the story of how you got to Rhodes College.
My story is similar to others’ who found a great college fit early on and stuck with it. I visited Rhodes my junior year of high school and found the liberal arts criteria I desired for myself. It was also far enough away, but close enough to my home in the awesome city of Nashville. I applied early decision the next year and never regretted doing so.
How have you changed since beginning your studies at Rhodes College?
I can’t answer without attributing my success to the Bonner Program. Rhodes and Bonner have been key to connecting my studies with my service work and understanding the relationship between the two. Going to school in a fun city is important enough for a student’s maturation, but going out into a city full of change and learning what sort of issues it faces is really something special. Bonner helped me do that beginning in my junior year. Rhodes has a wonderful reputation in the city of Memphis. People around our city love the students, and I have begun to learn why. Students do so much for the city. It was through the Bonner Program that I found Livable Memphis, a community development center and part of the Memphis Leadership Foundation, where I have been a volunteer intern for the last three semesters. I took my lessons on ecosystem conservation and sustainability from classes and applied them to relevant issues within an urban environment. I am learning both the challenges of a city like Memphis and the processes by which the city solves a problem.
Why did you decide to major in Environmental Studies? Did you build any strong connections with the faculty during this time?
Initially it was just interest, which is what any major was to me at the time—it really could have been anything. It was about one or two semesters in that I realized how great a choice it was. The major is interdisciplinary, so taking classes in different departments from different faculty members is one of the best parts. A majority of classes in history, philosophy, and biology have made up my major. But one of the most influential people in my career here has been Professor Cappellato. How fortunate I was to have taken three classes from and studied abroad with her on the Maymester program in Namibia. Always interested in her students and never unwilling to point out how wrong you were, Dr. Cappellato was key in developing my interest in sustainability—particularly sustainable living in cities (among her other specialties in ecosystem and wildlife conservation). The stories and experiences we shared over the last two years in class and abroad are most memorable, but I’ll never forget her unrelenting passion for teaching and her dedication to sustainable living. (Ed. note: Sadly, Dr. Cappellato died in November 2012.)
Tell us about your experience with the Namibia Maymester program. How did that program help you grow as an individual?
As I usually say to most people who ask, all the rumors you hear about studying abroad being an exceptional part of your life are true. Camping out around the country was definitely what made the trip. When you live outside in a tent for three weeks, you learn to appreciate true desert wilderness—a very real part of the planet that remains only a concept for many of us. Hearing lions roar in the darkness in the middle of a national park, hiking up the largest sand dunes in the world, and bartering my wristwatch for an ostrich-shell necklace from a local Himba chief—you couldn’t make this stuff up. I returned and became an iPA (International Peer Advisor) so that I could inform other students of the sensations of studying abroad.
Compiled by Emily Sullivan