Emily Clark '15

Hometown: Hudson, Ohio

Major: English (Creative Writing)
Minors: Religious Studies and Gender and Sexuality Studies

Academic interests: English, Gender Studies, Queer Theory, Sociology

Extracurricular activities: The Bridge (managing editor), Lynx Club (volunteer), Lacrosse (captain), Communications Office RSAP, Chi Omega, ODK (president), Mortar Board (treasurer), frequent shopper at YOLO

Tell the story of how you got to Rhodes College.
When my mom first pulled up the Rhodes website, I said absolutely not. In my omniscient, 17-year-old brain, I knew exactly what I wanted from college: an East Coast school with a glowing reputation and enough J. Crew to fuel my preppy desires. However, after a few forceful nudges from my college counselor, and a call from the volleyball coach here at Rhodes, I found myself on a plane to Tennessee.

I can’t remember exactly what moment made me fall in love with the college, but I remember leaving campus, and saying over and over again to my mom, “Everyone was so nice!” I’m not sure if it’s normal to base college decisions on the apparent kindness and abundance of smiling faces of the people you meet as a prospective student, but I did, and I couldn’t be happier.

How have you changed since beginning your studies at Rhodes College?
I think I’ve changed a ton since coming to Rhodes – and that’s a good thing.

People say that college is the first place you can really, truly be yourself. In my case, Rhodes College was the place I really, truly found myself. I always had some tenuous idea of the person I wanted to be—since I was in grade school--and that idea was always tied to a career of some sort: doctor, artist, lawyer. But Rhodes has helped me realize that it’s not so much what you’re doing, but how you’re doing it. For the first time in my life, I don’t know exactly what I want to be when I grow up. But I do know the type of things I want to do, the people I want to be around, and the things that I can be successful at. I’m not sure if I’ll be a teacher or work at a non-profit, or something completely different, but I know I have a passion for gender activism and the written word, and somehow I’m going to put that passion to good use.  Rhodes has opened so many doors, within and beyond the college, and shaped the person I am today.

You’re managing editor of The Bridge. Why did you get involved, and has it influenced your vision for your future?
I was first involved in The Bridge before it was even a real thing; I remember driving around Memphis to hang up flyers for homeless vendors to attend the first-ever potential vendor meeting, just because my friends needed a hand. The Bridge took off that spring, and while I blogged and wrote the occasional article, I soon left to go abroad. However, by the time I got back, they had grown to the point they needed a managing editor.

Now, The Bridge has become an integral part of my college career. I believe it’s a great organization— not only for Memphis, but for Rhodes as well.Being the managing editor is a ton of responsibility, but because of that, it helps keep me focused during the school year. Even when I’m stressed about a paper, or a lacrosse game, I know I’m involved in this bigger project in the Memphis community that’s changing the lives of those who experience or have experienced homelessness, and that’s incredible.

Tell us about your Rhodes Institute for Regional Studies project. What has the project taught you?
Completing my Rhodes Institute project has been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had here at Rhodes. I went in with a very broad topic, Ida B. Wells, and ended up writing about a very small topic—the social constructs of race, gender, and sexuality in the 1880s in Memphis, and how Ida B. Wells challenged those social constructions. Along the way, I’ve completely fallen in love with the research process—it’s just confirmed that it’s something I should do when I grow up! And I’ve become obsessed with Ida B. Wells. She’s incredibly under-researched, and after spending the summer on this project, I want to keep devoting time to the development of her reputation as an important historical figure, worthy of honor and recognition.

Because of this incredible experience, I’ve actually decided to continue my research, with the intention of submitting my paper for publication in December. I want to broaden my topic, and link my work on Ida B. Wells with the work of current activists in Memphis, who are working for race, gender, and sexuality activism. It’s a bit of a risk, because I’m dropping a class and picking up a directed inquiry, but I think it will be worth it; a published paper would be a dream come true. I’ve been hoping for something like this since I was about five years old.

I also recently became aware of a project Ballet Memphis is doing to spotlight different parts of Memphis. For one aspect of this project, they’re hoping to choreograph a piece about Ida B. Wells, and I’m hoping my research will play a key role in that choreography.

Overall, this project has taught me so much about Memphis, Ida B. Wells, and myself. But most importantly, this project has taught me how much potential Memphis has as a place of further study. We say over and over again that this city is complicated and under-researched. I never realized it until I started writing, and realized that I am pretty much the only one who’s ever written anything like this about Memphis during this time. That’s a simultaneously empowering and scary realization. I feel so blessed to have been given the opportunity to participate in the Rhodes Institute, because I feel like it’s shaping the course of my life. Memphis is an unshakeable part of me now, and I feel like it’s my responsibility to continue to write and tell its story, and give back.

If this project continues to grow as it has the past few weeks, I can see myself devoting my time to studying gender and sexuality with regards to race in Memphis for my whole senior year—and perhaps beyond. This project has captured my interest, but also my heart.

Compiled by Katie Cannon ′15