Rhodes: Students come to learn, stay to serve
September 1, 2017
As a newcomer to Memphis and to Rhodes College, I have been struck by the shared passion and sense of purpose on our campus and in our city. Memphis is a fascinating community and incredibly important in our nation’s history. I had long heard about the city’s rich and diverse culture, amazing food, and the warmth of its people. In my short time living here, it is obvious the city’s reputation is well deserved. Underneath it all, there seems to be a spirit of persistence and a resolve to continue confronting the challenges Memphis faces. Many other cities are facing similar issues, but not all of them seem as committed to finding viable solutions that improve the lives of every member of the community.
The spirit of Memphis resonates with the values of Rhodes, and much of the college’s success grows from our relationship with the city. About 90 percent of our student body comes from places outside of Memphis. We attract students from 46 states, the District of Columbia, and 43 countries. I already have a sense of pride that more than 40 percent of our students—more than 2000 of them in the past decade—choose to make Memphis their home after graduation. I believe this happens because Memphis has embraced Rhodes. Whether a graduate chooses to enter medicine, law, business, the arts, or nonprofit work, Memphis provides unprecedented opportunities for our students to learn, grow, and contribute to the city.
Rhodes has been lifted up nationally as the most service-minded campus in the country with more than 80 percent of our students regularly engaged in service to this community. Our outreach includes programs such as the Memphis Center, the Mike Curb Institute for Music, and the Rhodes Institute for Regional Studies, as well as partnerships with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Methodist University Hospital, Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, and the National Civil Rights Museum, among many others. Rhodes is also proud to embrace talented local students through the Clarence Day Scholars program, which each year offers 10 major scholarships to select students from Shelby County who have outstanding academic credentials combined with a demonstrated passion to give back to their city.
Very few national liberal arts colleges reside in the heart of urban centers—it is one of our primary distinctions. Rhodes has the opportunity to become the national model for this kind of partnership. I am particularly interested in engaging the college more fully with some of the city’s critical issues. It is important for Rhodes to be involved in K-12 education, public health, and the economic vitality of Memphis. These are pressing issues for the city, and they also coincide with the academic and civic interests of many of our students and faculty.
Under my leadership, Rhodes will continue to emphasize connecting student learning in the classroom to invaluable experiences in the community. I am excited for us, collectively, to do the hard work of reaching our full potential. Memphis is a significant part of Rhodes’ success. I want to make sure that the college participates in, and gives back to, this very special place.