In her four years at Rhodes College, Karina Henderson ’18 says she feels like she’s accomplished what she set out to do—to pursue her passions for writing and community service.
An English major with a concentration in poetry, Henderson joined the college’s literary magazine, The Southwestern Review, as a first-year student. For more than 50 years, the Review’s mission has been to bring together the diverse voices of the student body with works that inspire original thought, community-building, and support for creative expression.
Starting out as a committee member, her main role was reading and critiquing submissions and reporting to the publication’s editors. She also helped with the art direction of the magazine, and by her third year, Henderson had become an editorial assistant.
Henderson now holds the position of editor-in-chief, and this year enlisted the help of Caki Wilkinson, associate professor of English at Rhodes, who taught a special topics course this spring called Literary Magazines in America. In the course, students gained hands-on experience with The Southwestern Review, including the selection, design, and promotion of the 2018 issue.
“I’ve been working with Professor Wilkinson more intentionally about laying out a solid foundation for the Review,” says Henderson. She explains that this means determining the organization of the publication team, promoting a consistent and structured system, and formulating a timeline to keep everything on track. Henderson hopes that with the new system, the Review’s publication will run smoothly year after year. She also published a poem, “Malcolm,” in the spring 2018 issue of the Review.
In addition to her writing and editing talents, Henderson is a service scholar through the Bonner Program at Rhodes and has spent three years with the Refugee Empowerment Program (REP), which works to help the refugee population in Memphis by providing programs that address their needs and concerns. REP serves both adults and children, and Henderson worked in the after-school program with middle and high school students. She spent most of her time producing and teaching writing programs and conducting college access workshops.
“It was really fun, because it was an opportunity for me to take my own academic interests and mix them with my passion for the students I work with,” she says.
When Henderson noticed some girls in the workshops were shy about participating, she created a program especially for them using creative writing as the primary tool for developing literacy skills. “It was a time for them to bond and be in a low-risk environment where they could develop confidence in reading, writing, and speaking in English,” she explains.
Henderson also became a resource for those struggling to understand unfamiliar and intimidating processes for applying to college, such as completing the Common App or FAFSA.
After three years at REP, Henderson transitioned to serving as the programming coordinator for Rhodes’ Bonner Center, a position that manages the weekly meetings for all the service scholars of the Bonner Program, as well as educational meetings, training sessions for nonprofit work, and presentations from local nonprofit leaders. Henderson even partnered with Casa Luz, a nonprofit that provides support to those who need it in the Spanish-speaking community, to bring their executive director to speak to the group about domestic abuse.
“I’ve had good outlets to express my passions and work on social justice issues through Bonner and the English department,” Henderson says. “I know I’m prepared, and I think that’s all you could want from a college experience.” Graduating in May, Henderson will pursue a master’s degree in higher education administration at Northwestern University, with a focus on diversity, student access, and student retention.
By Swaneet Mand '18