Transforming a College and a Community

The skyline of downtown Memphis looking back from the middle of the river at dusk.


Over the past decade, Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee has become a national model for community-engaged learning and research. Students, staff, and faculty in the arts, humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences partner with a range of community organizations throughout Memphis to enrich the college experience and effect positive change in the city.

The Lynne & Henry Turley Memphis Center has been the vehicle through which the College has implemented several key strategies:

Making Location Central to Mission

  • Linking the success of the community to the success of the college
  • Integrating our location into the college’s curriculum and institutional vision
  • Asking new questions and seeking new answers with partners
    i.e. Developing a Memphis Art Project (MAP) designed to serve as a digital art directory for public art spaces in Memphis.
    i.e. Partnering with Memphis River Parks to establish student internships that help to restore the natural ecological conditions and connect the riverfront downtown and adjacent neighborhoods.

Saying “Yes” to New and Different Forms of Community-Engaged Work

  • Supporting a diverse range of faculty and staff projects
  • Facilitating student work that builds pathways for undergraduate and postgraduate life
  • Developing new and substantive ways to support and learn from community partners
    i.e. Hosting a forum to advance open dialogue on issues of race, racism, law, and the lasting impact on families and communities.
    i.e. Giving lectures at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music to celebrate the epicenter of American music.

Building Capacity Inside and Alongside the Institution

  • Creating generative partnerships with expert partners outside the institution
  • Forming communities of practice that connect and build expertise across the college
  • Finding new sources of support through the creation of innovative collaborations
    i.e. Partnering with the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to bring health equity education to community partners in Memphis.
    i.e. Integrating project-based learning into the first-year experience with community partners such as the National Civil Rights Museum and St. Jude.
The Lynne and Henry Turley Memphis Center at Rhodes College