Micah Leonard ′15

Hometown: San Antonio, Texas

Major: Psychology and Spanish

Minor: History

Academic interests: Pre-law, gender equality, and Latin American studies

Extracurricular activities: RSG, Interfaith Kinney Coordinator, Residential Assistant, Intern at Memphis Area Legal Services


Tell us the story of how you got to Rhodes College.

I originally came to visit as a sophomore and by chance met Coach Shankman. He was very wel-coming and he spent a while talking to me and my family. From there I left and put Rhodes out of mind, but Coach Shankman kept in contact with me throughout my college search process and encouraged me to visit again. I actually just fell in love with the school. There was no doubt in my mind that this school was a community, and even a family. I even felt that cheesy feeling that “I could see myself here.” It’s a liberal arts school that is actually in a city. I had a great visit and had the opportunity to meet with some wonderful people, such as Professors Heneger and Doyle and Rev. Walt Tennyson, and I was sold from there.

How have you changed since beginning your studies at Rhodes?

I have really learned to examine the world and ask questions of it. Before, I took what people said as fact and never really questioned it, but now it’s my task in life to always question and try to develop multiple perspectives. Rhodes has also taught me so much with respect to being an adult and a citizen of the world. I have no doubt in my mind that I am prepared for the real world. At Rhodes, the faculty and staff really give the students the power, and every day this ability to have a voice has motivated me to stand up. I have always been outspoken, but now I actually have aim when I speak.

Describe your experience as an intern with the Memphis Area Legal Services (MALS) as a part of the Rhodes Summer Service Fellowship.

That summer was quite the eye opener for me. I served as a scribe, a witness, an investigator, a researcher, a translator, a confidant, an intern, a driver, a solicitor, a helping hand, and a surveyor, but most importantly, an advocate, a reactionary, a listener, and a hugger. The projects I saw were extremely diverse and fulfilling, with each day holding a new opportunity for learning and expanding my awareness. I met so many people who live their lives trying to enrich Memphis. I could not have asked for a better place to witness this than MALS. My mentor, Linda Seely, is the epitome of someone who has dedicated her life to making change in Memphis. Now I know that I, too, want to live my life for change, to serve my city with the same passion, love, and drive that each of these people have and share every day. Memphis is full of culture, history, and life and I have been moved and motivated to try and embrace everything and everyone around me.

How did your modern languages fellowship in Buenos Aires, Argentina, supplement your academic interests?

Through this experience I was able to not only expand my knowledge of Latin American culture and my skills in Spanish, but also sharpen my researching tactics and critical thinking skills. This research created the perfect opportunity for me to work in all of my core areas of study, while strengthening my knowledge of my future area of study. As a Spanish major I was able to apply all that I have learned about the language, culture, and history to my research. All that I had learned at Rhodes was especially important when it came to my statistical analyses and my scientific approach to interviews. My history minor came into use as I studied the history of Latin America and the cultural implications of sexism. My future plans to study law were solidified, as I looked deeply into the legal system and the changing of laws in Argentina surrounding this controversial social issue. I was able to apply all that I have learned by working at MALS, where I served as an interpreter for Spanish-speaking immigrant women who were victims of domestic violence. This experience was life-changing. I see my research in Argentina as the door opener in my involvement and investigation into the field of law, with a concentration on domestic violence. 

You were selected as a recipient of the Rotary Global Education Grant for 2015-2016. Tell us about your plans for next year.

I will use the grant to study planning and management of social policies at the University of Buenos Aires as well as work on policy issues in the community. Ultimately, my goal is to create education programs for both children and adults in order to help families with socioeconomic disparities and familial issues. While many times domestic violence and gender equality may be linked together, education deficits are usually linked solely with gender equality. My passion is to discover how to link all three to create preventive measures and a curriculum for our society’s better-ment and future. Through this year-long master’s program in planning and management of social policies, I will be able to learn and further articulate my goal of furthering gender equality in education and establishing preventive measures for domestic violence.