Austin Armstrong ′14
Hometown: Searcy, Arkansas
Academic interests/passions: history, biology, public health, urban studies, social justice, community uplift, poverty in the United States, the environment, Latin America, theology, health & wellness, music
Extracurricular activities: internal co-president of GlobeMed, Mid-South AIDS Fund intern, Le Bonheur Emergency Room scribe, Omicron Delta Kappa, Phi Alpha Theta, co-editor Rhodes Journal of Biological Sciences, intern AMOS Salud y Esperanza, and volunteer at First Congregational Church in Memphis
Tell the story of how you got to Rhodes College.
The words “spring break” typically conjure up images of pristine sandy beaches and days spent lounging under the radiant sun. However, in central Arkansas, what it actually equates to is a dismal week of post-winter drizzle. So it was during spring break of my junior year that my parents thoughtfully asked if there were any colleges I would want to visit. I had begun to make my tentative list of college applications and Rhodes was one that was starting to emerge as a nearby favorite. We called to set up a visit and the next thing I knew we were loading up the Nissan to head to Memphis. The rest, you could say, is history. I immediately fell in love with the awe-inspiring campus juxtaposed with the quirky urban backdrop. I sat in on a history lecture and knew it was right where I wanted and needed to be.
You’re involved with the on-campus organization GlobeMed. Can you tell us a little more about the group and what it hopes to do?
GlobeMed aims to strengthen the movement for global health equity by empowering students and communities to work together to improve the health of people living in poverty around the world. The model that GlobeMed uses is to partner college chapters with already existing community health organizations in developing countries. So what began in 2007 with a couple of passionate students at Northwestern has exploded into 55 chapters throughout the U.S. and more than $1 million dollars raised for health organizations across North America, South America, Asia, and Africa.
I was initially introduced to GlobeMed during the Sack Fair my freshman year. Being interested in international affairs and medicine, the organization seemed like a perfect fit—not to mention the platter of sugar cookies being offered that made it even more tantalizing. I went to the first meeting and instantly loved the group of passionate, caring individuals I met.
GlobeMed’s reach extends way beyond the Rhodes campus and that too was a major selling point. We constantly seek to cultivate our relationship with our partner in Nicaragua—A Ministry of Sharing Salud y Esperanza (AMOS Health & Hope). We work tirelessly throughout the year to raise the promised $10,000 that we annually send AMOS for their water filtration project, but it really is more than just fundraising. We know that every dollar raised goes directly into building household water filters for families in rural Nicaragua—and these are areas where less than 20% of families have access to safe drinking water. Some people often claim that GlobeMedders are a bit “obsessed,” but it’s really just that we envision a world with health for people of all nations, and we recognize that our liberation is bound with that of the world. So anyone who thinks global health equity sounds like a cool and worthy cause should come check us out!
What advice do you have to those considering the pre-med track while also choosing to major in a different area of study?
I would advise them to follow their own inner voice. A lot of times as “pre-meds” we get caught up with the herd-like mentality and it really distracts all of us from our actual mission. I’m not saying to never take advice from others, because there are always people to learn from. However, I am saying don’t get distracted from your actual mission: look outside your own experiences and don’t try to mold your college years into something that does not reflect who you are. If you are interested in pursuing medicine, you should naturally want to volunteer in a medical setting. But if you’ve always thrived in your English or psychology or math courses, then maybe utilize this precious time to explore those subjects while fulfilling your requisite courses for medical school. There really is no wrong choice, because every department at Rhodes can boast unparalleled scholarship.
Compiled by Ellie Skochdopole