Faces of Rhodes

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Mary Reed ′14

Hometown: Kansas City, Missouri
Double Major: Economics and Commerce & Business

Extracurricular activities: Women’s Golf Co-Captain, Chi Omega Sorority, Special Olympics volunteer, Financial Management Association

Tell the story of how you got to Rhodes.

I had two criteria that were extremely important to me when choosing a college: great academics and an active social/Greek life. I also really wanted to continue playing golf in college. I looked at some larger private schools on the east coast and state schools close to home, but I consistently felt that I was going to have to budge and give up one of these three things that were so important to me. Until I came to Rhodes. Coach Clary, the women’s golf coach and athletic director, made sure that my parents and I felt special and welcome as soon as we stepped on campus. Although I initially visited because of golf, I knew that academics and feeling the right fit on campus were my priorities. I met with a professor and attended a class that day, and understood that Rhodes professors focused on teaching students how to think, and not what to think. Beyond the classroom, the students looked friendly, involved, and happy. Rhodes had everything I wanted neatly packed into a 100-acre campus in midtown Memphis, with endless opportunities for internships and service.

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

Rhodes has taught me to seize any and all opportunities. I feel way more comfortable applying for positions and taking on leadership roles because of life skills I have learned at Rhodes. Rhodes has really fantastic connections with the community outside the gates. I don’t think I fully understood why these opportunities were so special until I applied for a marketing internship with ALSAC/St. Jude the fall semester of my junior year. During my internship, I worked on the St. Jude campus 5 days a week and focused on the 2012 St. Jude Memphis Marathon, an event that raised upwards of $5.9 million. I loved my experience working and knew that I wanted an internship during the summer of 2013, but I also really wanted to go abroad. I found out that I could combine these two desires through the Morelle Legg Scholarship, which is only open to junior women majoring in business. As a recipient of this generous scholarship, I was able to intern in South Africa for nine weeks. These two experiences taught me not to be afraid to apply for unique opportunities, because they can open so many doors.

Tell us about your internship with the Business Bridge Initiative in Cape Town, South Africa.

My internship was life changing, to say the least. The mission of Business Bridge is to provide grassroots entrepreneurs (namely from area townships) practical business education through weekly courses taught by local business professionals. South Africa, which has the second highest Gini coefficient in the world (a measure of income inequality), is an ideal stage to implement the Business Bridge idea of fusing together corporate minds and the under-educated population to help SMMEs (Small, Micro, Medium Enterprises). Every day there was something new at Business Bridge. I would say my largest tasks included writing grant proposals, researching funding opportunities, and creating cases for support to send out to potential partners for our organization.

I also had the opportunity to work in the townships as a part of the research data collection. Business Bridge is currently collaborating with the London Business School and the Jameel Poverty Action Lab to conduct a one-year research project, in part funded by the World Bank, on the effectiveness of the structure of the courses. About two times a week for a month, I would go to the townships and conduct interviews with the entrepreneurs on their business growth and personal behavior changes. Being a part of a bigger project that has such immense implications was one of the most rewarding parts of my position. While I was there, Business Bridge also was setting up to launch courses in Johannesburg, South Africa, so a huge part of my internship was dealing with potential opportunities in Johannesburg, like contacting partners and dealing with logistics. I was fortunate enough that my boss actually brought me along to Johannesburg for the final week of my internship to attend these meetings, sometimes even allowing me to give the pitch to the potential partners. I really don’t think I could have asked for a better organization to work for this summer—every day I went home challenged, enriched, and passionate about the work I was doing.

How has your internship experience impacted your studies at Rhodes?

Every experience I have had since coming to Rhodes has complemented the next so perfectly it almost doesn’t seem real. During an economic development course I took with Dr. Teresa Beckham Gramm the spring semester of my junior year, I was able to focus my research on the South African labor structure and income inequality that was going to be the fundamentals of my internship abroad. After leaving South Africa, I knew I wanted to continue my work with Business Bridge and the study of economic situations abroad. I continue to stay in contact with my coworkers in South Africa and stay up to date with the progress of Business Bridge. This semester I am in a public policy course and I am focusing my research on the Black Economic Empowerment Act of 2003, a piece of legislation that has had a profound impact on the socio-economic landscape of South Africa, and I would ideally like to conclude this work with my senior seminar project in the spring.

Prior to my internship abroad, I was fairly certain that I wanted to go into public accounting right after graduation and work for a Big 4 accounting firm. Then somehow I ended up in Africa and my life was immediately changed for the better. After my internship, I am positive that my passion is in development economics, and I can’t imagine not pursuing this interest after graduation in May.

Compiled by Ali Swee ′16

Tags: Commerce and Business, Economics, Missouri