Abbey Judd ′15

Hometown: Wilmington, OH 
Major: Urban Studies with a concentration in the arts and community development

Academic Interests: Community psychology, Latin American literature, public art, music, and cultural policy

Extracurricular activities: Reformed University Fellowship, RUKA Intentional Community, Rhodes College Jazz Band, Fellowships Committee, Club Crew, Urban Studies Student Advisory Committee, Rhodes College Diplomat, Peer Assistant, intern at the Levitt Shell.

Tell the story of how you got to Rhodes College.

I was looking for a school that would provide the most options for careers and experiences, but also personable enough to allow me to build meaningful relationships with my professors. After looking at a variety of schools, I realized that I was drawn to the liberal arts approach to education and wanted to be in an urban environment. Rhodes excelled in these areas, but what actually set Rhodes apart from other schools for me was that it had a club crew team. While this may seem like an odd tipping point, I really wanted to learn how to row while in college. It was important to me to have the opportunity to dare to try new things. Rhodes has continuously provided so many opportunities, like rowing, that have introduced me to so many experiences, people, and places that have surprised me.

How have you changed since beginning your studies at Rhodes?

 I fell in love with Memphis. The city echoes with a deep authenticity and resiliency that has strongly impacted how I view community. Rather than critiquing the limitations of a place, I have learned how essential it is to have asset-based approaches to community building, where the members of a community identify their strengths, use those gifts to dissect issues, and define the challenges and potential solutions. Through courses and experiences in the Memphis community and abroad, I have constantly been reminded that learning is a lifelong process. In many ways, the last four years have been spent studying community on campus and off campus; as a student, as a resident assistant, in local organizations, religious organizations, internationally, and now as a member of the Ruka Intentional Community. In the Ruka we reflected on Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book, Life Together. A quote from his book encapsulates how I hope I have changed since joining the Rhodes community: “The person who’s in love with their vision of community will destroy community. But the person who loves the people around them will create community everywhere they go.”

How have your studies helped you to explore the arts in Memphis?

First, through performances with the jazz band throughout the city. Dr. John Bass not only directed us on how to play the charts, he also unpacked the historical significance of the Memphis charts that we were playing. While performing at pop-up arts events, the Levitt Shell, and the annual Africa in April festival, the connections between Memphis and music came alive through a very hands-on learning process. The urban studies program was rekindled in the spring of my freshman year when Dr. Elizabeth Thomas was hired as the director of the department. I was in the first class she taught at Rhodes, and quickly approached her about being my advisor. Like Dr. Thomas, I share a passion for the role of the arts in communities. During my time at Rhodes, the arts have been growing, expanding, and flourishing throughout the city.

Through my courses, jazz band, fellowship opportunities, and Dr. Thomas’ mentorship I have been able to dedicate research in my urban studies courses to the social impacts of the arts. For my capstone project I studied how the Levitt Shell, as a musical venue that provides over 50 free public events, contributes a sense of community in the city of Memphis. I am also interning at the Levitt Shell through the Martha Ellen Maxwell Internship in the Arts, which has been another incredible opportunity to be working with a spectacular arts organization. The Levitt Shell is enriching my academic understanding of the nonprofit sector, the social impact of the arts, and connections within the Memphis community.

You are a Buckman fellow. How has studying abroad impacted your studies?

The summer after my sophomore year, I went on Rhodes’ Language Intensive Maymester program to Cuenca, Ecuador, facilitated by two Rhodes professors. That experience was key to building my confidence in speaking Spanish as well as preparing me for the spring semester of my junior year. The Buckman fellowship enabled me to study abroad with the International Honors Program: Cities in the 21st Century. We journeyed to month-long homestays in Ahmedabad, India; Dakar, Senegal; and Buenos Aires, Argentina. In each city we performed comparative case studies reflecting on the political, social, and built environments. I compared the use and identities communicated through public art in each country. Following this experience, I have reoriented my studies to think about the role of the arts more broadly as a means of communication. Connections between my studies and experiences have been present in all my courses, but study abroad also brought a lot of questions about what the right to dignity looks like around the world.

You have participated in both the Rhodes Institute for Regional Studies and the Summer Service Fellowship (SSF). Tell us about your time with these programs.

Rhodes Institute for Regional Studies provides an amazing summer opportunity for students to meet Memphis through an individual research project within a community of other students and faculty. My research focused on parent involvement and engagement in a local school. I spent my summer researching successful models of parent engagement that are employed around the country and contextually rooting my research by meeting with teachers and parents. Regional Institute introduced me to other students and faculty who are passionate about Memphis and are engaged in fascinating projects that are inspiring.

In Summer Service, I worked at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art in the marketing department. I worked with the director of public relations and public programs, which entailed planning multiple events at the museum and coordinating with community partners. Not only was this an incredibly educational experience, but my supervisor has also been an incredible Memphian-mentor and friend. The Summer Service Fellowship gave me a great opportunity to gain professional experience in an arts-nonprofit.

These two fellowships and the others that I have been able to participate in, like the RUKA Intentional Community, have really shaped my college experience. Fellowships have provided the settings and support for me to grow as a member of the Rhodes and Memphis communities in ways that have enriched my education and refined my passions.