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Student Focus: Passion, Perception and Public Health

by Savannah Haeger '16

Haley RhodesFor Haley Rhodes '16, of Bedford, Mass., a strong passion for community building is evident in everything she puts her mind and efforts toward.

Rhodes' plan for the upcoming semester is exemplary of her aspirational mentality. She has crafted a unique six-month study abroad experience to Guatemala, beginning in July, where she will hold two internships – one with researchers from Harvard Medical School and other prestigious institutions, and the other with Save the Children Guatemala.

Working in communities where up to 80 percent of children are malnourished, her research will examine mothers' perceptions of purpose in life on their children's nutritional status. She hypothesizes that mothers who identify with a sense of purpose in life will feel more autonomous and capable of surmounting political, social and economic limitations.

"I wanted my thesis to provide information meaningful to the community I work with," Rhodes said. "I hoped it would contribute significantly to literature and have a larger purpose."

Professor of Medical Humanities Kristie Foley serves as Rhodes' major adviser and will co-author with Rhodes the article on her Guatemala research outcomes.

"Haley is a remarkable student who has a gift for turning big picture ideas into meaningful and well-designed research," said Foley. "As one of her public health major advisers, I have witnessed her tireless commitment to ensure that her self-designed major is rigorous and relevant. One of her greatest strengths is her willingness to take risks and to challenge herself to be a better student and a better person."

For her time in Guatemala, Rhodes received Dean Rusk International Studies Program and Abernathy research grants, allowing her to pursue her research goals without any financial burden. "The Dean Rusk program was so willing to support my project and give it meaning. To hear what you're doing as an undergraduate is worthy of attention is so encouraging," she said.

The opportunity to travel and live in Guatemala compliments her participation in last summer's Davidson in Cadiz program, where Rhodes, a Hispanic studies and public health double major, improved her Spanish alongside her peers and her Hispanic studies adviser, Assistant Professor Patricio Boyer.

In her work-study job as a Spanish translator at the Ada Jenkins Center free health clinic, Rhodes has been able to put into practice her interest in the intersection of Latino culture and medicine. She also volunteers her time as a tutor with the Center's LearnWorks program. In fact, Rhodes recently won top prize, a $5,000 grant, from the college's Ideas of March competition for her proposal to start a nutrition program for the children of LearnWorks.

Going the Extra Mile

Beyond her academic pursuits, Rhodes doesn't slow down; on any given day she can be found putting in early morning hours doing work at Summit Coffee, or training for her next marathon. Additionally, she is a member of the Honor Council, a Chidsey Leadership Fellow and is a small group leader with College Life, all of which highlight her gift for connecting with her peers on a personal level.

"One of the most important things I've learned at Davidson is how to become a good friend, because I've seen it modeled for me by my friends," Rhodes said.

Because of her commitment to service, integrity and work ethic, Rhodes also was recently named a Terry Fellow, and will receive a scholarship from the program for her remaining two years at Davidson.

As she looks forward, Rhodes envisions a future in medicine, with the intention to continue working in public health with Latino populations. She sees herself opening clinics or doing clinical consulting, both outlets for her entrepreneurial spirit and problem-solving capacity.

Rhodes is the daughter of Dori and Richard Rhodes, and sister to 17-year-old twin brothers, Andrew and Ryan.