Faces of Rhodes

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Andrew Tait ′15

Hometown: Charlotte, NC
Major: Urban Studies
Minor: Anthropology/Sociology and Religious Studies

Research interests: In the spring I conducted asset-based research about the Vollintine-Evergreen neighborhood as part of a Plough Fellowship and was a member of Dr. Jamerson’s HOPE VI evaluation team analyzing the employment-related effects of case-management services on former public housing residents. Both projects were presented at the Rhodes Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Symposium (URCAS).

In my most recent research project, I examined the status of vacant, derelict, and/or blighted commercial or industrial properties in Memphis and how those buildings shape neighborhoods.  I presented my research at the Memphis Area Geographic Information Council conference and took second place in their student scholarship competition.

Extracurricular activities: Co-President of the Pack; Student Trustee; Peer Assistant, Rhodes College Diplomat; Urban Studies Student Advisory Committee; Sigma Nu Fraternity

Tell the story of how you got to Rhodes College.

My story begins in 1983, when my mom graduated from Rhodes (the last year it was Southwestern at Memphis).  Growing up I always heard about her experience here, and I think that certainly impacted my desire to search for a close-knit, liberal arts institution.  However, like any rebellious teen, I also wanted to chart my own path. Thankfully, my mom ensured that Rhodes stayed on my list.  Over several years of searching for schools, Rhodes kept staying on the list and kept moving up in my interest level.  When it came time to choose, I committed to Rhodes because of several reasons: I knew I would be empowered by the accessibility of the administration and professors; I had an opportunity to join the cross-country team and be an NCAA athlete (though I’m no longer on the team); and, most importantly, because of Rhodes’ burgeoning urban studies program and its location in the dynamic city of Memphis.

How have you changed since beginning your studies at Rhodes College?

Rhodes College has really helped me harness underdeveloped skills in collaborative leadership.  In high school and before, I had had plenty of leadership experience, but it was mostly with the administration.  Since coming to Rhodes, I have been fortunate enough to work alongside many other great student leaders and as well as administrative professionals that constantly shape my understanding of leadership.  I firmly believe that Rhodes is a successful community because of the initiative staff, students, and faculty take to build collaborative, resourceful connections.

You work very closely with the Pack. How has your involvement in this organization shaped your student experience?

I think my work with the Pack has really come to define much of my Rhodes experience.  That being said, the Pack would not have the momentum it does now without the work of my co-president Taylor Burnett and the rest of our executive council. I enjoy partnering with different student groups, the administrative staff, and the athletes to unite the college in school spirit.  It has been incredibly rewarding to see the positive impact of a passionate and energized student section on our athletes.  For example, last winter’s first-round NCAA women’s basketball game was one of the highest (if not the highest) attended basketball game in Rhodes College history.  Mallory Gym seemed to be exploding with school spirit, and I believe that there was correlation between the energy at that game and the upset win our Lady Lynx pulled off. That game was also emblematic of developing connections with staff and administrators.  With just three days to prepare, we sought some administrative departments for support and others sought us out.  Together, lots of resources were combined to make that night the highlight of my Rhodes experience so far and a highlight for many others as well.

How has your tenure as a student trustee affected your time at Rhodes? What are some of your responsibilities in this position?

I am really excited to be serving the college as a student trustee as only a junior.   I ran on a platform of developing relationships with Memphis in all academic disciplines, as well as bolstering school spirit from a larger institutional perspective.  I serve on the finance committee, which works to manage the college’s budget, focusing on how our tuition affects our experience in the Rhodes community.  The finance committee also oversees the buildings and grounds subcommittee, which is currently working on the expansion of our science facilities.  Representing the college in this way is certainly opening new doors for me, as I meet our distinguished trustees.  Their lifetime accomplishments are inspiring, and they are actively interested in student perspectives, which is often rare from board members at other colleges.  As a representative, I really do want to hear from other students about the issues they are passionate about.

What are some of your goals for the future? How has your Rhodes experience impacted or helped you to move towards these objectives?

I came to Rhodes knowing I wanted to major in urban studies, and that remains true today.  I’m fascinated by cities and am currently developing a passion for large historic buildings, especially ones not being used to their full potential.  I am considering pursuing a graduate degree in architecture. Down the road, I would love to be the lead developer on a project like the Sears Crosstown renovation.  My Rhodes experience in various leadership positions, as well as my work with urban studies, has definitely prepared me for a wide variety of careers. 

Compiled by Ellie Skochdopole ′15

Tags: Anthropology and Sociology, Religious Studies, Urban Studies, North Carolina