Samantha Smith ′14

Hometown: Memphis, TN
Major: English 
Minor: History

Academic/research interests: I am incredibly interested in Renaissance drama and historical dance studies, academic interests that have influenced my class selection at Rhodes and will shape my plans for postgraduate studies.

Extracurricular activities: This year, I am pleased to have the opportunity to learn more about writing pedagogy from Professor Finlayson and Professor Rudy while serving as a Writing Fellow. I am enjoying learning about the process of doing historical research and writing an academic book while working as Professor Jackson’s research assistant. I volunteer as a ballet instructor, teaching ballet classes every Saturday to elementary students from the community surrounding Rhodes.  I am vice-president of Omicron Delta Kappa, and I am a member of Phi Alpha Theta, Sigma Tau Delta, and Mortar Board. I am also a member of Kappa Delta.

Tell the story of how you got to Rhodes College.
I never expected that I would attend college in Memphis, and Rhodes was the last stop on a college tour that took my family from the Midwest to the East Coast. I was impressed with Rhodes’ reputation as an intellectually demanding liberal arts school with a strong English department. Rhodes’ many resources, especially the Pearce Shakespeare Endowment, made me confident that I would be exposed to authors and academics working in my field of interest. After meeting friendly students and engaging professors, I decided I wanted to attend Rhodes while standing in the star room of the beautiful Barret Library. I remember thinking I could happily spend four years studying with friends in that room, and I was right.

Tell us about your internship experience this summer.

My internship working in the Education Division at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., was enlightening, educational, and thoroughly enjoyable. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to work with professionals at an institution that I have greatly admired since seeing a Folger production of As You Like It while visiting D.C. when I was in seventh grade. This summer, I saw how the Education Division staff organize and facilitate Shakespeare-centered outreach programs in D.C. schools, create digital and print resources for teachers and students, and engage members of the community in discussions about the importance of Shakespeare in primary and secondary education. I had the chance to meet academics, teachers, writers, and actors who came to the June 2013 Elementary Education Conference to share how they inspire students to engage academically and artistically with Shakespeare’s plays. I learned more about the day-to-day life of professionals in arts education while I attended office meetings, organized materials, completed research that supplemented school outreach lessons, and contributed material for student study guides. My favorite part of my internship was participating in family programs at the Folger, where I helped the children put on shortened versions of some of Shakespeare’s plays. It was wonderful to be around people who were so interested in Shakespeare, and the kindness and instruction that the Education Division staff showed me made my internship experience very pleasant.

How do you think this internship will contribute to you academic career?

The Folger’s emphasis on performance-based teaching reinforced my belief that Shakespeare’s plays are best studied when approached as texts and theatrical performances. The internship strengthened my interest in studying historical and modern performances of Shakespeare’s works with particular emphasis on how dance references are portrayed by actors and directors. This summer, I was accepted to be a reader at the Folger, a privilege that allowed me to use the Folger’s extensive archives to research dance in Shakespeare’s comedies. The quality and quantity of the materials collected at the Folger was both exciting and overwhelming, and the experience of being a reader confirmed my interest in studying Shakespeare and dance history at the postgraduate level. Finally, meeting educators, editors, actors, directors, librarians, administrators, and curators illustrated the breadth of Shakespeare-related jobs available and made me excited about forging a career that merges my interests in Shakespeare and dance.

What are your plans after graduation?

I plan to pursue a master’s degree in Shakespeare studies, and I am considering the possibility of postgraduate work in dance history, with a focus in Renaissance dance. Ultimately, I hope to merge my interests in academics and the arts, literature and history, Shakespeare and dance into a meaningful career that allows me to share the joy I find in beautiful words and movement with students of all ages.

How will your experiences at Rhodes help you achieve this?

The individualized attention that Rhodes professors extend to their students has made my undergraduate education exceptionally sound. My professors have challenged me to write precisely, read conscientiously, and speak thoughtfully, while the students around me have reminded me that the best decision I can make as an educated individual is to surround myself with smart, ambitious, and engaged friends and acquaintances. As my senior year at Rhodes continues, our hundred-acre wood feels smaller as I grow more prepared to exchange our oaks for the trees of a far-away graduate school. I am confident that the education I have received at Rhodes and the friendships I have formed here have readied me for that transition.