A sense of place

Rhodes Alumni Magazine

Spring 2014

Grant examines ways to enhance gateway programs

(with Lynn Conlee)

For Rebekah Barr ’16, the discussion-based classes of the Search for Values in Light of Western History and Religion program (Search) gave her the skills to more diplomatically address issues of poverty in Memphis public schools. The roots of western civilization studied in Search helped political science major Cecil Brown ’14 better understand politics. Sumita Montgomery ’15 made connections with Plato’s famous allegory of the cave, studied in Search, when she experienced a reality of Memphis that she had never before seen while conducting a Crossroads to Freedom project. And it was the skill of synthesizing conflicting perspectives learned in Life: Then and Now (Life) that helped Mary Catherine Cadden ’15 prioritize and process information during her Summer Service Fellowship.

A grant-funded study currently under way on the Rhodes campus aims to shore up these critical links between classroom and experiential learning by taking advantage of Rhodes’ Memphis location to enhance the college’s foundational Search and Life programs. As part of a four-college consortium awarded $250,000 by the Teagle Foundation, Rhodes will draw on its strength of place to ensure that the big questions of human existence studied in Search and Life classes remain part of a student’s fabric of learning throughout his or her education—and beyond.

The Rhodes Twist

Learning that takes place in the classroom informs an equally important aspect of a Rhodes education—that of experience gained outside the gates. Whether through internships, fellowships, or research projects, the Memphis community at large becomes a veritable petri dish of learning opportunities for Rhodes students.

“Something that is unique to Rhodes College is the experiential learning component and how Memphis plays a role in that,” says Dr. Russ Wigginton ’88, vice president for the Office of External Programs and member of Rhodes’ Teagle team. “That’s not a factor at most liberal arts colleges around the country. If you’re asking ‘What’s my purpose in life?’ and you’re reading Plato and Socrates and Martin Luther King as part of thinking about that question, and then you’re volunteering at Cypress Middle School or an impoverished community or at the Church Health Center, that’s a unique kind of education. That’s our individualized twist.”

It was this twist that led to Rhodes’ collaboration with Lawrence University in Wisconsin, College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, and Ursinus College in Pennsylvania to share the Teagle grant titled Gateways to Liberal Education. The initial consortium meeting of the grantees was held in August 2013 at Ursinus to work on a plan and establish a mutual understanding of their respective gateway programs; each campus will host subsequent conferences as the process unfolds. For Rhodes, those gateway programs are Search and Life . . . (read more)