Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in U.S. history. Rhodes College Alumni Relations will celebrate the accomplishments and countless contributions of our Black alumni, faculty, staff and students.
Steven Becton ’88 is the Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer for Facing History and Ourselves, an organization committed to fighting bigotry and hatred and ending educational inequity.
He took the time to answer a couple of questions and offer words of advice to our students for Alumni Relations. Here is part of that exchange.
Alumni Relations: What is your fondest memory of being a Rhodes student?
Steven Becton: I have so many fond memories of being a Rhodes student but here are a few. I really enjoyed being in a community that has a real commitment to an Honor Code. The idea that I could leave something of value unintended and expect it to be there when I got back was so refreshing or that a Professor could trust me to complete an exam without hovering over me was quite liberating in a world that is so distrusting. I also loved the accessibility to the professors; they knew me by name and that was important to me. Rhodes was demographically different from my high school so it was critical to my transition to be in a place that felt like a real community. Finally, I enjoyed being a student athlete at Rhodes - and we took them both seriously. Rhodes encourages one to pursue academics and extracurricular activities with the same spirit of excellence for which the college is known.
AR: Why is it important to give back to Rhodes?
SB: Over the years I have given back to Rhodes both financially and through volunteerism simply because it's an investment that pays huge dividends. The Rhodes degree continues to benefit me and I graduated 30 years ago! I am well into my professional career and have an advanced degree, yet people still seem to respond to me with a great deal of admiration when they learn that I am a Rhodes graduate. Rhodes' reputation is a resource that serves graduates throughout their lives. Whether a Rhodes student matriculates to higher education or chooses to enter the job market immediately, the reputation of the school opens doors.
AR: What advice would you give current students of color?
SB: My advice to current students of color is to always remember this: anytime you are in a situation where you are in the minority just tell yourself: "I add value to this space." Your presence is valuable! If you are a Rhodes student you have already proven that you have the tenacity and intelligence to overcome systemic racism and any other barriers designed to hinder your success.
Finally, I would advise any student to not chase dollars but chase your dreams and passions, the money will follow. I was a Business and Economics major at Rhodes but found my passion in fighting injustice. I am now the Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer for Facing History and Ourselves, an organization committed to fighting bigotry and hatred and ending educational inequity. That's the beauty of a Rhodes degree, it prepares you for so many paths so that you are free to uncover and discover what matters to you! Take full advantage of all Rhodes has to offer and give the gift of your brilliance back to the College! Rhodes has a legacy of great students of color, continue to build on that legacy for the students of color who will follow you!