Sarah Koehler ′15

Hometown: Franklin, Tennessee

Major: Psychology and Spanish
Minor: Education

Academic Interests: Bilingualism and early language acquisition, social psychology, child development, and intercultural competence

Extracurricular activities: Rhodes Student Associate Program (RSAP) Coordinator, Cognition and Aging Lab Research Assistant, KIPP After-School Mentor Program Co-Founder, Summer Service Fellow at Caritas Village, and member of the Rhodes Ruka Intentional Community, Reformed University Fellowship, Rhodes Activities Board, Phi Beta Kappa, Omicron Delta Kappa, Mortar Board, Psi Chi Psychology Honor Society, and Sigma Delta Pi Spanish Honor Society
Tell the story of how you got to Rhodes College.

When I began the college search, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted. I visited more than 40 colleges and applied to large and small schools across the country. I weighed the pros and cons and marked many off my list, but Rhodes always remained. When it came time to make my decision, Rhodes rose to the top of the list because of its location. Being in Memphis has been one of my favorite parts about attending Rhodes, especially after spending the summer here as a Summer Service Fellow. The city has so much to offer, from incredible internships and service opportunities to good food and a lively social scene. I’m so glad that I chose a school that’s situated in a place with such wonderful opportunities.  
How have you changed since beginning your studies at Rhodes College?

My perspective has broadened immensely since coming to Rhodes, particularly through the diversity of thought and culture that I’ve encountered in my time here. I’ve been exposed to so many new ideas and so many new people, both in and out of the classroom. More than anything else, my studies at Rhodes have expanded my perspective of the world around me. I’ve had the opportunity to study abroad twice during the last three years—in Ecuador on a Rhodes Maymester program and in countries across Europe through the Rhodes European Studies program. Both experiences were life-changing and challenged me to think harder about the way I view my place within my own culture and my community here in Memphis.
How has doing research with professors broadened your study of psychology?

Working alongside Dr. Katherine White in the Cognition and Aging lab has given me invaluable hands-on experience in the psychology field. During discussions in my psychology classes, I’m able to make more connections and better understand new material because of the work I’ve done in the lab and the research discussions we’ve had in our lab meetings. Since joining Dr. White’s team, I’ve overseen an experiment from start to finish, from reviewing literature and designing stimuli to testing other students in the lab, coding data, and even helping to write the final paper. By the time I’ve graduated, I’ll have experience presenting my research at conferences and a published paper with my name on it. Through my research, I’ve also developed close mentoring relationships with psychology professors. The degree to which Rhodes professors invest and trust in their students has been the most meaningful aspect of my college education.

What is the Ruka House? How have you benefitted from living in that community?

The Rhodes Ruka is an intentional community and Rhodes-funded fellowship focused on loving the environment, loving other members in the house, and loving the Rhodes and greater Memphis communities. I live in the house with four other senior girls. As a community, we buy our groceries from the Downtown Farmers’ Market, grow vegetables in our home garden, compost, meet weekly one-on-one to hear about each other’s lives, host dinners at our home for Rhodes faculty and staff and others from the Memphis community, host events for Rhodes students, volunteer at Caritas Village, and meet regularly with our amazing faculty sponsor, Professor McNary-Zak. 
For me, the house represents a home, not only for my housemates and me, but for all students at Rhodes. It’s a place where everyone can feel welcome and where people from all different backgrounds—Rhodes students and members of the Memphis community—can meet and learn from one another. So far, I’ve been thrilled with the number of Rhodes and Memphis organizations that have been represented by people who have visited the Ruka. I’m inspired by the stories I’ve heard and the lessons I’ve learned from friends, relatives, professors, and co-workers who have come through the house. And, most of all, I’m blown away by my housemates whose love for one another, involvement in many organizations, and commitment to many issues makes me so grateful for the opportunity to live and grow with them every day.
What are your plans for next year? How has your Rhodes experience influenced this decision?

Studying abroad has instilled in me a strong desire to continue traveling the world and learning about different cultures. Right now, I’m pursuing a Fulbright grant to teach English in Spain for a year after graduating, an opportunity that would allow me to combine my Spanish major, education minor, and love of travel. In addition, my time spent at Caritas Village in the Binghampton community this past summer and my experiences in the Ruka this fall have fostered in me a desire to work in community development. Although I’m not certain where these interests will lead me, I’m confident that the experiences I’ve had at Rhodes and the passions they have developed will impact me daily for the rest of my life.

Compiled by Caroline Ponseti ‘15