Faces of Rhodes
Carrie Cobb ′16
Hometown: Jackson, TN
Extracurricular activities: Activities chairman of Delta Delta Delta, Kinney Site Coordinator for Adopt-a-Friend at Snowden Elementary
Carrie Cobb ’16 participated in the 2013 Rhodes Institute for Regional Studies, which is an innovative summer program that capitalizes on the liberal arts tradition of the college and its location in Memphis, a large urban center with a rich cultural history. The Rhodes Institute awards fellowships to students who present proposals for research projects focused on the local community—either past, present, or future. After an intensive regional studies seminar and then six weeks working on their own projects, fellows present their work to the Institute for discussion and submit a paper.
Tell the story of how you got to Rhodes College.
Growing up an hour from Memphis, in Jackson, Tennessee, I had always heard about Rhodes. I knew it was a great school and that I would definitely apply, but the fact that it was so close to home originally put it lower on my lists of schools. But when I described to my mom my ideal school, she strongly encouraged me to check Rhodes out. I wanted to go to a smaller college, but it had to be in a big city. I was looking for an academic challenge with opportunities to research and get involved in the community around the college. A beautiful campus was also high on my list. Rhodes was clearly a great fit for me. But what sold me on Rhodes was my overnight visit. I was able to sit in on a philosophy class that I absolutely fell in love with and ended up taking my first semester here. I also was extremely impressed with the friendly atmosphere I found. I knew the well-rounded student body of Rhodes would be a place that I could easily fit into.
How have you changed since beginning your studies at Rhodes?
The most important thing I’ve learned since being at Rhodes, in my opinion, is to never give up on something you love. If you have a passion for something, it is part of who you are and you should see where that takes you. I entered Rhodes as a pre-med student who had a half-hearted goal of one day going to med school. But the more I learned about myself at Rhodes, the more I realized that this dream was not my own, but instead a career I was pursuing only because I’ve always been told that it would be something I would excel at. And that is where the Rhodes College liberal arts education stepped in and completely changed my future. I chose to take Search along with a Social and Political Philosophy class my first semester because the Rhodes advisors encouraged us to take one class that was not geared towards our intended majors, but instead was something we found enjoyable and interesting. I have always had an interest in philosophy, so I decided to dive right in. It turned out to be the best decision I ever made. Studying philosophy has shown me how to make a career out of the subject that I am truly passionate about. I probably would have never discovered this, or at least not as early as I did, at a school that did not offer a liberal arts education like Rhodes.
Tell us about your Rhodes Institute for Regional Studies project.
I am researching Memphis’ recent efforts to reduce handgun violence. This project started when I learned that Memphis had been chosen as one of five cities to receive a $4.8 million grant from the Bloomberg Philanthropies to work toward two goals: one, to generate economic vitality in key neighborhoods, and two, to reduce youth handgun violence. With this grant, Memphis has created the Innovation Delivery Team, a group of eight members whose job is to research and test innovative ways to achieve these two goals. I began researching the methods this team is using to reach out to the youth community and combat this problem. My project has grown into examining Memphis’s history and the effectiveness of different programs and legal procedures to deter youth from resorting to guns to solve their problems.
How will this experience contribute to your academic career?
This experience has taught me that independent research is one of the most challenging, but also one of the most rewarding, things there is. I absolutely love what I am doing, but it has definitely been a learning process. This summer, I am not in a classroom and I don’t have required homework assignments like I do during the school year. I am now putting what I have learned to the test and actually going out into the world and trying to make sense of a real-world problem. I have been conducting interviews and synthesizing current data in the hopes that it will one day help someone understand this issue more clearly. And I am able to do all of this while having a group of students around me that are going through the same thing, just with different projects. I get to hear what they are researching and learn about their topics while also teaching them about my research and getting feedback from both students and teachers on how to navigate this project. I have learned so much about Memphis that I never would have otherwise. This experience has given me the ability to practice and acquire skills in situations outside of the classroom that will be invaluable to me in pursuing a career after Rhodes.
Compiled by Lauren Albright ′16