Few students can say they’ve gotten a call from their university president. Very little can claim they’ve received the highest honor in their university system. For Kendria Shields-Rhodes, both happened one late afternoon.
Last fall, Shields-Rhodes received a voicemail from President Denise Trauth who broke the news that she had received the 2018 Regents Scholar Award. Shocked and excited, Shields-Rhodes was initially at lost for words.
“I’m just Kendria, I’m just me. I’m just this girl from Dallas, Texas,” she said.
Despite her humility, her accomplishments stood out as exceptional compared with applications from several students from eight universities and colleges in the Texas State University System. Indeed, the Board of Regents of the Texas State University System recognizes only one outstanding student from a system member institution each year with the Regents’ Student Scholar Award. Nominations for the award required her to receive endorsements from the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and the Vice President for Student Affairs at Texas State University.
It wasn’t until she held the framed certificate in her hands and felt the weight of the medallion at her heart that she realized how much the award meant to her.
“It was such an amazing thing to look at. Such a grateful thing because my whole philosophy since I came to college is I’m going to do it for the people who couldn’t do it … [t]here are so many people who want to be where I’m at, people who will never get the chance,” said Shields-Rhodes.
Liberal arts education influences career path
Growing up in Dallas, she was surrounded by the Spanish language, picking up a few words here and there. However, it was during a friendly encounter in Costa Rica when she truly realized her love for the language.
Riding in a cab along the Costa Rican coast, she spoke to the cab driver with what little Spanish she knew. She had always been aware of the practicality of being multilingual, but on that day, seeing the driver smile and appreciate her attempts to communicate, she realized that when you speak to someone in their language you’re celebrating the beauty of their culture.
“There is so much beauty in cultures and in languages,” said Shields-Rhodes. “Even if there is just a smile I can bring to somebody in just being able to speak their language, then that’s good enough for me.”
This experience, the critical thinking skills from her psychology degree, and the international relations and diplomatic knowledge of her minor have all led her to think about potential career paths.
“I did a lot of reflection and prayer this year about really what am I going to do when I graduate from college,” said Shields-Rhodes. “I can’t fully say what is ahead, but I feel that I am embarking on a journey of diplomacy and ambassadorship.”
“All the Glory goes to God”
Shields-Rhodes has many accomplishments, but one she is most proud of is her relationship with God.
“He is the King of everything for me. I feel that every opportunity that I ever had was because of my Creator,” said Shields-Rhodes. “I’ve had to walk through fire, and I don’t believe my fire-walking stops now, but I know there is a God that goes before me, behind me, and on the sides of me that’s always going to protect me.”
Not only does she credit God with her accomplishments, but also for her motivation. One of her greatest fears is not accomplishing everything God has set out for her to do, and because of that, she makes sure to try out for any opportunity that crosses her path.
“Everything that is for you is for you, and there is no one that can get through your door of opportunity, especially if it has your name written on it. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t,” said Shields-Rhodes.
Finding a place in the Bobcat Community
Shields-Rhodes didn’t initially plan on attending Texas State University. In fact, she didn’t step foot on campus until freshman orientation. When she made this university her home almost four years ago, she never imagined the opportunities she’d have and how much growth she would experience.
“I really came out of my shell here,” said Shields-Rhodes.
Chi Alpha played a considerable role in coaxing her out of her shell. A place of love and worship, this community became a second home for her. It is also where she found her best friends.
Since spring of 2017, Shields-Rhodes has also played a part in building a community of her own as a resident assistant. Her work and efforts were recently rewarded. She was named San Jacinto Hall’s Resident Assistant Rookie of the Year and received the Citizenship Award from the Department of Housing and Residential Life.
From community to opportunities, friends, and professors, Texas State has exceeded Shields-Rhodes’ expectations.
“We are the rising star of Texas,” she said, “and I really believe that.”
Anyone and Everyone
When asked who has shaped her into the person she is today, Shields-Rhodes had three simple words: “Todas las personas.” Everyone.
Everyone that has come into her life has served a purpose. No matter how big or small, positive or negative, “they’ve influenced something. They’ve ignited something.”
From Dr. Mary Brennan, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, to Jessica Perez, Shields-Rhodes’ success coach, all experiences and people have inspired her to gain wisdom and grow as a person.
“I can’t say that everything that came out of my mouth came out of Kendria’s head… No, it definitely came out of the experiences that I’ve had in life… It had to come from someone, everyone,” she said.
Among Shields-Rhodes’ many inspirations are her mother and grandmother, two strong women who raised her in the church, guided her throughout life, and served as examples of strength and courage.
“Growing up, my granny and momma told me, ‘You’re no better than, but you’re no less.’ I’m taking that everywhere with me,” said Shields-Rhodes.
Reflecting on the past
Last fall, on a crisp cool day, Shields-Rhodes started to record the scenic view from her dorm window.
“I spent five minutes talking to my future self about how much I’ve loved Texas State,” she said. “It really hit me that when I walk that stage next year…I’m going to walk and feel that I have done everything that I could have done here.”
Before she leaves, she wants to make sure she’s left a positive impact on everyone she has met.
“I want to know that I left something. I inspired [someone]. I left a love . . . because love will raise up a leader, will raise up a new person,” said Shields-Rhodes.
Not only does she hope she will leave a positive impact, but she wants those who look up to her to think not that they can do the same, but that they can do more.
Her final message to students is to never give up.
“Keep going. There are so many opportunities in life, and there is literally someone waiting for the idea you have,” said Shields-Rhodes. “They’re just waiting for you to come.”