Faces of Rhodes

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Austin Dixon ′15

Hometown: Guin, AL
Major: Commerce and Business/Religious Studies

Extracurricular activities: President of the Black Student Association, treasurer of the Hispanic Organization for Languages and Arts, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc., Peer Assistant, Class Council

Tell the story of how you got to Rhodes College.

In Alabama there are two major schools that everyone goes to: Auburn or Alabama. Being an Auburn fan, I was interested in going there, but my parents expressed to me that I needed to reach outside of that and see what other options I had. Through the process of taking the ACT, I came across some people who introduced me to the Common Application. I saw that Rhodes was in Memphis, and I have always thought that Memphis was a neat city, so I decided to check it out. I came for one of the Spring Preview days, and when I arrived on this beautiful campus, it felt like home. My father and I went to one of the class previews for the business department, and they were discussing how many of the graduating seniors had jobs even before they walked across the stage. That was something we hadn’t really seen in any of the other schools: a focus on transitioning students from being students to being people with actual careers or going forward into graduate school. That was really attractive. Over time, the more I thought about it, the more Rhodes seemed to be the perfect choice. And it has been.

How have you changed since coming to Rhodes?

I’ve grown tremendously. I have become less intimidated by the world over time. My first year at Rhodes, I had a very shy and timid mindset. I never wanted to step out too far in terms of being active on campus for fear of getting in the way. Over time, something seemed to click, and I began to get more involved on campus. I made the decision to join Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, which has helped me to become more active on other campuses in Memphis, as well. The fraternity has influenced me to see more of the city and to give back to it by way of service projects.

Also, Rhodes has instilled in me the importance of asking questions and asking for help. I’ve learned that it is much harder to do something alone than it is to utilize all the people and resources that Rhodes has in place to assist you. Everyone here is always willing to help. You can go to anyone, regardless of whether you’ve had three classes with them or if you barely know them, and just introduce yourself and tell them what it is you need.

Finally, Rhodes has taught me how to be a better student and how to be more professional in applying for jobs and internships. Rhodes is academically rigorous, but if you’re willing to put forth the time and effort, then you’ll be able to get through. Also, there are good relationships between students and the faculty. The classes at Rhodes are small, so you definitely get to know your professors. I feel that, at any given time, I could go to any one of my professors and ask them for help.

Tell us about your internship position with Public Financial Management, and how it applies to your classroom experience.

I will be working on creating debt profiles for potential clients who will be looking into the company. Basically, I will be looking into all of their records to see if they even need us in the first place, or to what extent it is that they need our help, so we can be of best service to them. I’m currently working on a location in Louisiana. We’re looking through the client’s data from the last 10, 15 years to see what kind of debt it is that they have on their books and how soon they need to pay that off. We look to see what type of monetary needs they are going to have, if it’s a growing community, that type of thing. That’s definitely applying to the classroom big time, since I’m taking a finance cases course now. Everything I do in the internship ties in with my classwork; I’m doing bond valuations at work, and we’re doing the same thing in class. The same Excel skills that I’m using on the job are also helping in class, and vice versa.

I’m working with two Rhodes alums there, and from the first interview they were asking me, “Is this or that professor still at Rhodes?” We were talking about some of the commonalities between the classes then and now. They’re also able to help me with some of my work. The other day, one of them said, “If you need any help with any of your work, you can contact me, because, of course, I’ve been through it before.  Being here on the job, I can give you a different perspective into what it is that you’re doing.” To have that extra help, especially from someone who’s already taken those courses before, is definitely a great help, something that I didn’t anticipate. I plan to maintain this position or another intern position to continue gaining the experience that I need, while continuing to soak up all the information I can in the classroom.

Tags: Commerce and Business, Religious Studies, Alabama