Shelby Hardaway ′14

Hometown: Austin, Texas
Major: Religious Studies
Minor: Spanish

Academic interests: Religious history, practical theology, educational theory, social justice.

Extracurricular activities: Rhodes College Diplomats; Chi Omega; Intern at Memphis Interfaith Association, Methodist Hospital Chaplains, The American Red Cross, and Idlewild Presbyterian Church; Rhodes Summer Service Fellow at The Church Health Center; Mortar Board; Order of Omega, Theta Kappa Alpha, Omicron Delta Kappa, and Delta Sigma Pi Honor Societies.

Tell the story of how you got to Rhodes College.

I researched several liberal arts schools in Texas and around the country, and Rhodes was one of the colleges that continually stood out to me. Once I visited the campus, I fell in love with the beauty of the school as well as the powerful feeling of community. Rhodes students, faculty, and staff care deeply for one another and that was evident during my visit. The community, rigorous curriculum, and the food of Memphis made my decision to come to Rhodes quite an easy one.

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

Aside from my life improving enormously upon my discovery of Gus’ Fried Chicken, my four years at Rhodes have been incredibly formative both intellectually and personally. As a religious studies major, I have had the opportunity to learn extensively about other cultures and religions. This has not only expanded my knowledge of the world, but also allowed me to think critically about my own values and beliefs. More than just accepting something because a professor, or anyone for that matter, said it was true, my Rhodes professors taught me to examine ideas and beliefs with scholarship and compassion. On a more personal level, I don’t think I necessarily changed, as much as I grew into a more confident and passionate version of myself. I discovered, both in and out of the classroom, what I was passionate about and how to pursue these passions.

How have the faculty and staff contributed to your Rhodes experience?

I have a special place in my heart for many professors at Rhodes. Not only have they encouraged me to stretch and grow academically, but they have also served as mentors, offering me wisdom and guidance. My professors have offered me encouragement and guidance from the time I started researching my first internship opportunity to when I started making post-grad plans. I have found that the faculty makes a concerted effort to know students, and that has contributed greatly to my Rhodes experience. It is not uncommon for professors to invite a class over to their homes for dinner, or even ask a student to babysit their children!

During your time in college, you have had internships with the Memphis Interfaith Association (MIFA) and the Methodist Hospital chaplaincy program. How did you become interested in these organizations, and how has your work there affected you?

Rhodes does a tremendous job of encouraging students to use what they have learned in the classroom to better themselves as well as their community. I started working with MIFA through an internship class with Dr. Kendra Hotz that focused on community health equity. I worked with the Tennessee Ombudsman Program, ensuring that women and men living in long-term care facilities were being treated with dignity and respect. I visited facilities in both affluent and lower income areas of Memphis, which opened my eyes to the glaring inequalities in the health care system. This internship gave me insight into advocating for those who cannot advocate for themselves and taught me a great deal about the marginalized populations in our country, including the impoverished elderly.

My internship with the Methodist Hospital chaplaincy program remains the most challenging and formative experience I have had during my time at Rhodes. This internship was offered as a course in religious studies, and I worked directly with the chaplain at the hospital to learn how to speak of matters of faith with people who were very ill. I applied all I had learned in my classes during this internship, as I interacted with people of many different faiths and cultures. One of the greatest lessons that I learned from this internship and course was the importance of empathy and the necessity of compassion in human relationships. Coming to college, I had no idea that learning about empathy and compassion would be learning goals for a course, but I am certainly thankful that they were!

What led you to apply for Teach for America (TFA)? How will your time at Rhodes help you in this next step of your life?

During my time at Rhodes, I was able to see firsthand the work that Teach for America is doing for education in our country. Several older friends and my older brother were corps members in Memphis and beyond, and I was inspired by the transformational change that was happening in their schools. Students living in poverty were getting incredible educations and had teachers who believed in them. After meeting with TFA representatives and visiting classrooms, I knew that I wanted to be a part of this transformational change.

I am confident that my time at Rhodes will help me immensely as I begin teaching this fall. I will use the leadership skills as well as the passion for social justice that I developed at Rhodes to help me make it through challenges. Likewise, the encouragement and teaching tips I received from my professors will be endlessly beneficial as I begin this journey.

Compiled by Ellie Skochdopole ′15