Justin Toliver '15

Hometown: Atlanta, GA
Major: International Studies
Minor: Economics & Chinese Studies

Academic Interests: U.S. and Chinese economic and social relations

Extracurricular Activities: Rhodes Student Government Senator, Common Table Student Representative, Open Rhodes Orientation Assistant, Admissions Student Recruitment Panelist, NCAA Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, Rhodes Lynx Football - Defensive Back/Special Teams, Rhodes Lynx Football - Turf Field Game Day Set-up Supervisor, Rhodes Lynx Basketball-Shot Clock Operator, Rhodes Lynx Basketball - Intramural Player, Team Captain

Tell the story of how you got to Rhodes College.

At the outset of my college search process, my mother strongly encouraged me not to shop for a school through brochures. She accompanied me as I traveled to my top 10 choices, and assured me that when I encountered the school that was meant for me, I would know it. I was very clear on three characteristics I wanted my college to have: 1) a highly ranked academic program; 2) a stimulating environment that would embrace my interests in international studies and business; and 3) opportunities that would enable me to pursue my leadership abilities in the classroom, around the campus, and on the field.

I was introduced to Rhodes by a member of the Lynx football coaching staff. When I toured the campus, interacted with members of the faculty, spoke to the international studies chair, and interviewed with Coach Dan Gritti, there was not a doubt in my mind that I had found my home for the next four years – Rhodes College was the place for me.

How have you changed since beginning your studies at Rhodes?

Being an athlete who cares deeply about academics and about planning for the future wasn’t always the easiest thing to explain to my “jock” friends. At Rhodes, it has been an absolute pleasure to make life-long friendships with individuals from all walks of life. I am proud to be a member of a student body that works and plays hard together. I was never sure if the time and energy invested in high school would even matter after I graduated. But Rhodes has showed me how to utilize my prowess in manners that are beneficial to myself and others. My professors have a keen way of tapping into my intellectual curiosities, which makes learning so much more engaging than I could have ever imagined. My experience at Rhodes has given me the comfort to admit what I don’t know, but the fortitude to tap into the resources surrounding me to access the answers.

How important is football to your college experience?

Football is extremely important to my college experience because it regularly allows me to see how hard work pays off. As a student, I give my best by coming to class prepared, performing in class relentlessly, and leaving from class informed. As a football player, I give my best in practice by being coachable and executing as instructed; in games I play instinctually, strategically, and deliberately. Off the field I’m inspirational, accessible, and carry myself in an honorable manner as a Rhodes Lynx football player. This sport is pivotal to my success as a Rhodes student because it provides me with an outlet, a release to work on a constructive and achievable goal: winning! Football ensures that I focus on my skills of discipline, precision, and openness to change.

Tell us about your appointment to the NCAA Student Advisory Council. What does this appointment mean to you?

This summer, I was invited to represent Rhodes at the Southern Athletic Association Student Athletic Advisory Committee Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, along with Ryan Larson, the Rhodes SAAC liaison, and Sarah Johnson, who plays basketball for Rhodes. We participated in leadership workshops, team-building activities, and guest presenter sessions. I used this as an opportunity to lead group exercises and network with key ambassadors from various college programs. As a result of contributions during the sessions, a couple of mentors, including Jaye Gardiner, the commissioner of the SAA, and Hoyt Young, took notice of me. Hoyt asked if I would be interested in attending a sponsored luncheon in my hometown; I enthusiastically expressed interest, and attended the luncheon two weeks later. As I was enjoying the final days of summer break, I received an email inviting me to complete a nomination form for the NCAA Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. Two weeks later, I received a confirmation.

It is undoubtedly an honor to be selected as one of only 24 individuals to serve as an NCAA Student-Athlete Advisory Committee member. I want to express my sincere thanks to Rhodes College and Coach Gritti for believing in me and my capabilities so that I could be presented with this opportunity. I fully recognize that I am only a vessel that gives our school and all other Division III sports programs a voice, a vote, and a seat at the decision-making table dealing with issues near and dear to of us. The appointment for me further solidifies that I am viewed as a leader and reinforces my commitment to the practices of Rhodes.

In no way will this role be an easy feat with my academics and extracurricular activities. But, I’ve been in training for the past 20 years, and Rhodes has further prepared me for these types of challenges, so I gracefully accept it. Because without challenge, there is no motivation. I have rolled up my sleeves, I’m putting in the work, and we’ll let the future lead where it may.