Bonner Scholar Spotlight: Olivia Cohen

Meet Liv Cohen! She is a Bonner Scholar and first-year from Oxford, Mississippi. 

Q. How would you describe the responsibilities of a Bonner Scholar?

A. Being a Bonner definitely has the necessity of balance, as any other student has. We are required to fulfill 10 hours of service per week, whether that be at our service site or events around Memphis or even on campus. It helps a ton in getting involved both at Rhodes and in the city, and as a first-year who didn’t spend much time here before coming to Rhodes, this has helped a ton with acclimation and growth. I was fortunate enough to come from a town pretty close to Memphis, but Bonner offers the opportunity to really dig into our time spent in Memphis. It’s a really cool experience, too, to be able to give back to a city that’s already offering us so much - I’ve already met several interesting and wonderful Memphians and I can’t wait to see where else Bonner takes me! 

Q. What community organization(s) do you work closely with?

A. I’m currently at MIFA (Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association), which helps seniors and families in Memphis with issues such as hunger, homelessness, and emergency services. Meals on Wheels (at-home meal deliveries for seniors) is one of the many great things that MIFA does, and I’ve been working closely with its improvement initiatives following the fiscal year - I’ve been doing lots and lots of surveying recently!

Q. Why did you choose these community organizations?

A. It was a little different this year - we had five different locations as first-years to rank and I was lucky to get paired with MIFA, which was my second choice. It all worked out the way it needed to, though, because MIFA has pushed me in ways I didn’t expect and I can already see growth in myself in the few months I’ve been there. I had volunteered with MIFA in the past through my high school youth group, so I was really excited to find out I would be working with them during my first year at Rhodes. 

Q. What does a typical week look like for you? How do you balance your personal life, academic life, and Bonner responsibilities? 

A. Bonner has forced me to learn how to prioritize and truly balance all aspects of my life, which I needed to learn for sure. I had always been a bit of a procrastinator, but I don’t have time for that anymore. Being ‘on my own’ for the first year has been hard, but the stability of being at MIFA for ten hours a week shapes my week pretty well. I spend a couple hours every weekday morning at MIFA and get back to campus just in time to grab lunch with my friends. Thankfully, this semester all of my classes are in the early afternoon so I can knock them out by 3. I typically spend a couple hours doing “life” things (cleaning, watching an episode or two of Friends, doing a face mask—the possibilities are endless) before I get started on my homework. I spend my evenings catching up on any reading or assignments and snag dinner with my friends at the Rat or Lair. You can definitely find us staying there for maybe a bit too long—we always get so caught up in conversations or running into other people! On weekends, I spend most of my time with friends or napping (MIFA isn’t open on weekends) or getting ahead on my assignments for the week. I’ve gotten into a pretty good routine and have found a healthy balance between all aspects of college. 

Q. What is unique about volunteering in the city of Memphis? How has this city impacted you? 

A. I come from a small-ish town, so there was a limited amount of volunteer opportunities for me, but here my horizons are way broader (Memphis has over 12,000 nonprofits!). Whatever you want to do, there’s most likely the option for it in Memphis. Being in the city, I’m forced to explore part of Memphis that aren’t just Rhodes’ campus or getting coffee in Midtown. I love getting to drive through the city and see all of the different neighborhoods, and when I get to MIFA I have the ability to interact with so many different people with varying backgrounds and experiences. I’m definitely lucky to be a Bonner in Memphis, as I have already learned so much about what it truly means to serve all kinds of people.  

Q. What does service mean to you?

A. Service isn’t a one-way track. It’s a learning experience for both you and the person(s) you’re serving, and if you don’t leave it truly feeling that you made an impact then you just gotta dig in there deeper. It should never ever be about YOU — it’s truly based on compassion and a hunger for knowledge. It’s a shared experience between both parties — you’re serving, but also being served (whether you realize it or not). It’s all about growth and making the world a better place. 

And a few just for fun:

Q. What majors/minors are you considering? 

A. Currently very undecided, but I’m interested in Urban Studies or Art History. Also might throw a Spanish or Anthropology minor in there. Who knows, though…I’ve got time to grow and figure myself out. 

Q. What other clubs/extracurriculars are you involved with on campus? What are some of your passions? 

A. I’m really excited because the Episcopal Church at Rhodes College just got started! You can definitely find me there most Sundays from now on. I’m hoping to start going to the Spanish Medical Club next semester — I have a Wednesday night class that unfortunately seems to interfere with every club ever, so I’ll definitely be a lot more active in the spring. 

I’m super into art, movies, and music — I probably have almost 200 playlists as of now and I’m always searching for new music. Definitely hit up my Spotify or feel free to suggest your favorite songs to me! Whenever I manage to find a free couple of hours in my week I’m always down to watch a new movie. I’ve been really into the cult classic “Empire Records” lately…a group of weird teens working in a record store in the ‘90s, what more could a girl ask for? 

Q. What song/album are you listening to on repeat right now?

A. A big question! Omar Apollo has been releasing new songs lately, so I’m really into his new song with Dominic Fike and Kenny G, “Hit Me Up.” I’ve also been listening to a ton of The Brian Jonestown Massacre, a super cool experimental rock band from the ‘90s. Oh, and I’ve literally had “In the Meantime” by Spacehog on repeat the past few days.

Q. What was the last book you read? Would you recommend it? 

A. Unfortunately, I haven’t set aside much time to read for pleasure in a while since I’ve been stacked with reading for classes, but a while back I was reading Wuthering Heights, which was alright. I’ve been aching to reread one of my favorite books, though — Rolling Stone journalist Rob Sheffield’s memoir, Love Is A Mixtape. Makes me cry every time.