Faces of Rhodes

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Destiny Smith ′14

Hometown: Little Rock, AR
Major: Psychology
Minor: Religious Studies & African American Studies

Academic interests: special education programs within the U.S., achievement disparities affecting minority students, issues around the intersection of race, class, and gender

Extracurricular activities: mentor for No Boys Allowed Just Girls (NBAJG) Mentoring Program; GED writing teacher at DeNeuville Learning Center for women seeking to obtain their GED; Serving Our Students (SOS) mentoring program, Black Student Association (BSA), African American Women Speaking Our Minds on Empowerment (AWSOME)

Tell the story of how you got to Rhodes College.

Throughout high school, I participated in Arkansas Commitment, a college preparatory program for academically talented African American students. During our junior year, we toured three private liberal arts colleges of various campus sizes in Tennessee. Rhodes was our first stop, and I immediately knew the small campus was the best fit for me. Following my initial trip to Rhodes, I was encouraged to tour and visit other schools. However, no other college compared to Rhodes, which offers the ideal size and distance I had in mind for my undergraduate studies. Rhodes was my top college pick, and I was excited to be accepted to such an academically rigorous institution. 

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

Prior to Rhodes, I can honestly say I was a bit shy and hesitant to open up to new experiences. My freshman year was truly the test for me. However, after participating in various volunteering opportunities and getting involved in organizations such as BSA, VOX, and AWSOME, I became more social and interested in what Rhodes and the city of Memphis had to offer. During my time at Rhodes, I have had the opportunity to interact with people from all walks of life, which has fostered my appreciation and commitment to diversity. I have also had the opportunity to travel, which I was never open to before. I have traveled throughout the country for leadership and diversity conferences as well as abroad for the chance to experience a new culture.  Now, as a senior, I am more outspoken and actually anticipating whatever endeavors lie ahead.

This summer, you worked on a project entitled “Strides for Equality: A Resource Guide for the Civil Rights Struggle in Memphis” through the Rhodes Institute for Regional Studies program. Tell us a bit more about your research and the motivations behind it. 

My research this summer was a joint effort. Allyson Topps and I wanted to enhance the class experience by taking a critical topic such as the discussion of civil rights and making it more interactive and more accessible for students. Teachers in Tennessee have a strict curriculum to follow, which can limit the amount of time and effort they have to research and incorporate supplemental information. Our goal through our research this summer was to create a resource guide that not only assisted teachers, but also interested and motivated students to take more initiative in learning about their city. We incorporated links to visual media, such as interviews and documentaries, as well as links to information such as biographies, newspaper articles, etc. Although I am not from Memphis, I understand the importance of making seemingly distant people and events more relevant and tangible to students today. Therefore, we hope that with the help of our resource guide, students will take pride in their city by learning about the prominent people and events that have helped to shape Memphis as they know it.

What are your plans for after graduation?

After graduation, I plan to continue my education in psychology by earning a Ph.D. in school psychology. There are many pressing issues within and outside of schools that impact the learning of students. As a school psychologist, I would assist in ensuring that these academic, behavioral, or social concerns affecting students are addressed and resolved.

Compiled by Ellie Skochdopole ′15

Tags: African American Studies, Psychology, Religious Studies, Arkansas