A successful project completed for a course often can inspire a student to dig deeper into a subject through research, or even apply for an internship to further their knowledge. That’s what happened to rising senior Jalen Essick.
As part of the Intro to Urban Studies course taught by Prof. Shaolu Yu, Essick prepared a research paper and presentation about the Memphis International Airport’s impact on the city of Memphis’ economic vitality. As a business major with a concentration in marketing, he wanted to expand his knowledge of how airports operate as well as what marketing strategies and tools are used in the aviation industry. So, Essick turned his attention to one of the busiest airports in the world—the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in his hometown of Atlanta, GA.
“As an intern, I worked directly with the social and digital media team within the Department of Aviation. I was in charge of capturing content from live events throughout the airport that were later posted to various social media accounts,” says Essick, who helped launch the ATL airport’s new TikTok account. “Occasionally, I would assist in video production setup for live press conferences and events. I had the opportunity to help arrange and attend a press briefing for Mayor Andre Dickens and Senator Jon Ossoff to announce the expansion of gates in Concourse D, which will generate additional jobs at the airport. Afterwards I had the opportunity to meet the mayor and senator.”
Essick himself is no stranger to airports as a traveler, having visited Spain, France, Japan, Belgium, England, and Canada, along with several cities in the United States. “My father was a National Geographic photographer for several years, and occasionally my mother and I would meet him on location after he completed his assignments.”
In addition to the aviation project for his urban studies course, three sociology courses taught by Prof. Evelyn Perry—Intro to Sociology, The Sociology of Sport, and The City—have had a profound impact on Essick. “These courses have helped me develop a sociological lens when trying to understand various aspects of our world,” he says. “I can’t thank Professor Perry enough for this more holistic outlook and perspective on problem solving, and I know that it will give me an advantage no matter what field of study or future career plans that I may pursue.”
A driven and determined scholar-athlete, Essick is one of the team captains of the men’s basketball team at Rhodes and a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. “Adjusting to the academic rigor of college was challenging, but balancing those demands while being a student-athlete forced me to develop strong time management skills.”
After graduating from Rhodes, Essick plans to earn an MBA. But, he says, airports will still figure in his future: “I hope to continue to travel, especially out of the country.”