A love of languages and reading always has served Lauren Rhoades well.
Those passions helped Rhoades earn bachelors of arts degrees in English literature, Spanish, and political science from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Rhoades’ affinity for the written word doesn’t end there. She is currently working on her master’s of fine arts degree in creative writing at Mississippi University for Women.
Rhoades will put everything she has learned to use in her new position as director of the Eudora Welty House and Garden. She previously served as public assistance specialist at the Welty House.
“One of my big focuses and a goal of the staff includes educational outreach programs,” Rhoades said. “We do a lot of tours. We would like to do more and have that be a foundation of programming. We are thinking of ways to keep the museum fresh and dynamic.”
Rhoades said she will rely on what she enjoyed most as a student to help visitors to the museum relate to Eudora Welty’s writing and to help them see themselves reflected in their experience. She said her mission is to inspire a love for literature, reading, and the creative process. Rhoades said she and her staff have a wonderful opportunity to use their creativity to build upon what already has been done at the museum.
Rhoades believes her work on a MFA in creative writing at The W also will help her in her new position. She said she enjoys working at her pace in the low residency program, and anticipates completing her studies in the spring of 2021. Rhoades said her new job will help her explore Welty’s thinking behind what she wrote and the thoughts she used to polish her craft.
“Being at The W, which is where Eudora Welty went to school, there are a lot of ways to overlap and partner (with the museum) in the future that I hope might come of this,” Rhoades said. “The people in the program have such good ideas, and I have learned a lot from the teachers.”
Rhoades said her involvement in the MFA program at The W has given her confidence to build an identity as a writer. She said she and her classmates are doing workshops and reading about or examining work through the craft lens of a writer to see how life and experiences shape a writer.
Rhoades hopes writing always will be a piece of her life and that the experience of the MFA program at The W and the chance to work as director of the Eudora Welty House and Garden will fuel her love for languages and reading.
“I can appreciate how hard it is to write anything, especially thinking about what (Welty) writes, not only her stories but her essays and her collection of letters,” said Rhoades, who has done a non-fiction and a fiction workshop, some short stories, some non-fiction essays, and other literature and forms classes as part of the MFA program. “I have a feeling of great admiration but also from my small perspective compared to her great legacy empathy how hard it is to write something and revise it. I can empathize how scary it is and how necessary it is to want to put your voice out into the world and make it heard.”
Rhoades worked for two years as a FoodCorps service member in Jackson and led nutrition and garden education programs at Magnolia Speech School and Raines Elementary School. In 2015, she was named the FoodCorps Mississippi State Fellow. Her food writing has been featured in the Jackson Free Press and Cookinglight.com.
Rhoades also worked with school groups, developed public programming, and managed the Education and Visitors Center gift shop.
The Eudora Welty House and Garden, which interprets the life of the internationally acclaimed author, became a National Historic Landmark in 2004. The site opened to the public in 2006.