Dy'nelle Todman '15

Hometown: Athens, GA

Major: Economics/Business and Urban Studies

Academic interests: My academic interests are driven by my passion for children. I love studying youth and community development, mainly the impact of education, afterschool programming, and community on children. I am also interested in non-profits.

Extracurricular activities: Rhodes Women’s Basketball Co-Captain, Student Athlete Advisory Committee, Mortar Board, Urban Studies Community Development Fellow, Urban Studies Student Advisory Committee, Big Diehl Committee (Editor’s Note: Todman received the George Lapides Sportsmanship Award in April)

Tell the story of how you got to Rhodes College.

Initially, searching for a college was a bit overwhelming. There were so many considerations that I had to take into account—not only what I wanted to achieve academically, but athletically, as well. I had a college counselor who sat down with me at the end of my junior year of high school and truly helped me organize what I was looking for in a college. I expressed my desire to play basketball at the next level  but that I wanted the focus of my college career to be grounded in a strong academic program where I could explore all my academic interests. He suggested I look at Rhodes because he thought it would be the perfect fit for me. Now, every time I see that college counselor when I visit home, I tell him how right he was. Rhodes has afforded me the opportunity to achieve more than I could ever imagine.

How have you changed since beginning your studies at Rhodes?

I came to Rhodes with a strong idea of what I wanted my future career field to be. The idea has not changed much, but the personal and professional growth I have experienced, due to the many opportunities I have been afforded at Rhodes, has allowed me to explore all of my academic interests and hone in on a profession that brings them all together.

My experiences at Rhodes and in the larger Memphis community, including my academic endeavors, volunteer work, Community Development Fellowship, and internship, helped me gain a deeper understanding of the injustices that persist in the education system, and accumulate a wealth of knowledge regarding the dimensions and complexities of community, youth, and educational development. I learned a lot about myself and those around me. I now see the change that can be made through my efforts and the collective efforts of many individuals.

How have you balanced academics with your extracurricular activities?

Dedication and time management were the keys. I was committed to making all aspects of my life—being a varsity athlete, being a full-time student, a community volunteer, and an intern—work in tandem with one another. I planned my schedule, prioritized my work, and set goals for myself that included each of these areas. I refused to let one negatively impact the others, and instead used success in one to fuel success in another. As an athlete, I used basketball as a way to connect with kids while volunteering in the community. Volunteering in the community fueled and guided my studies, which then provided me with the knowledge to succeed in my internship. Even with such a busy schedule, I always made sure to take a day off. Mondays, my off day for basketball, became my off day for all my activities. I used this day to rest and prepare for the week ahead.

Next year you’ll be working with Teach For America. Can you tell us a little bit about what inspired this decision?

My passion for children and the impact they have had on me sparked my interest in Teach For America. My work with Freedom Preparatory Academy and the Vollentine Evergreen Community Association (VECA) afterschool program ignited the flame. Freedom Prep and the VECA afterschool program were both focused on helping children in their respective communities by bridging the gaps between achievement and opportunity. The impact these programs were able to have was driven by a love and commitment to children. From this, I found that I wanted to have the largest impact possible on children. I wanted to help children develop academically, socially, physically, and emotionally by being an educator, leader, mentor, and role-model who could provide a listening ear or a smile on a bad day. A great teacher, as proven to me by the teachers at Freedom Prep and the teachers that volunteered with the VECA afterschool program, does all of this.

How did living in Memphis influence your decision to major in urban studies? How did you become involved in the Memphis community?

My involvement in the community began with simply volunteering at KIPP as a math tutor in the Kinney Program, and grew from there. My Community Development Fellowship with the VECA afterschool program and internships at Stax Music Academy and Freedom Prep allowed me to get even more involved.

Second semester of my freshman year, I took an introductory course in urban studies in which we studied different aspects of Memphis and cities in general. From this class, I began to view Memphis from a slightly different perspective. Everything about Memphis was different from where I grew up, and I wanted to know as much as possible about the city from a structural level and how that structure impacted the people living in Memphis. My decision to major in urban studies was solidified after learning of the numerous electives that allowed me to incorporate my passion for children into my studies.