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Inaugural Tarbutton Fellows reflect on experiences
Alumnus Hugh Tarbutton Jr. 84Ox presented a gift to the college to establish the Tarbutton Leadership Fellows Program in memory of his father, Hugh Tarbutton Sr. 52Ox 55B (above).

Alumnus Hugh Tarbutton Jr. 84Ox presented a gift to the college to establish the Tarbutton Leadership Fellows Program in memory of his father, Hugh Tarbutton Sr. 52Ox 55B (above).

These students, who are all participants in the Tarbutton Leadership Fellows Program (TLF), will be part of the next selection process by nominating a prospective applicant and helping select the next group of Tarbutton Leadership Fellows.

In spring 2018, alumnus Hugh Tarbutton Jr. 84Ox presented a gift to the college to establish the TLF in memory of his father, Hugh Tarbutton Sr. 52Ox 55B.

After a nomination from a faculty or staff member in fall 2018, followed by an application process, five first-year students were selected to develop and participate in summer leadership experiences as part of the inaugural group of fellows.

“We're looking for the best fit, looking at each student individually,” says Valerie Molyneaux, associate dean for academic affairs and administrative coordinator of the program. 

The TLF cultivates and supports a diverse and highly talented group of student leaders by providing financial, programmatic, and mentoring resources to help them craft meaningful leadership experiences in the summer after their first year at Oxford, according to Program Coordinator Donald Beaudette, assistant professor of political science. 

Last year, five students – Jamie Constantine, Ehren Fernández, Kylett Jones, Odudu Mbaba, and Eden Medina – were selected from the pool of applicants. With the help of a grant, exclusive workshops, and mentoring, the students developed summer experiences aimed at helping them develop professional experience related to leadership.

“I wasn't really sure what the program was about (when I was nominated), but I was really excited and read more about it, and it seemed like a good fit for me,” says Medina, an international studies major from south Florida.

She decided to split her summer into two experiences, both related to gender studies. She first spent a month in Israel, where she has family and has visited several times in the past, to research self-sustaining kibbutzim communities there.

The National Science Foundation also chose Medina as the youngest of 10 students from across the United States to study civil conflict management and peace science at the University of North Texas. She created a research paper about how women's roles in civil wars affect gender equality outcomes in post conflict states around the world.

Medina is able to continue her research by presenting her studies at conferences in Puerto Rico and Chicago later this school year. She also will continue to study her research topics at Oxford with Salmon Shomade, Oxford associate professor of political science. 

“I had a really amazing experience,” recalls Medina, who is president of the Oxford Jewish Student Union and editor of the campus newspaper.

Over the summer, Fernández was able to continue previous summer experiences. In addition to working at a preschool over the summer as a camp counselor as he's done in the past, he also took Portuguese classes at the Cultural Center for Language Studies school in Miami, Fla., with business professionals.

“Overall, TLF incentivizes you to keep up with education over the summer,” says Fernández, a pre-business student from Miami who serves as president of Organization de la Lengua (OLE) at Oxford. “Oxford students love learning and education, so it helps keep them in their studies while away from campus.” 

While many of the students traveled for their experiences, Mbaba stayed closer to campus. She interned at Helping Hands Community Clinic in Conyers, which serves uninsured and underinsured patients in the area.

“I helped physicians and other healthcare professionals by taking vital signs, updating charts and generally organizing paperwork,” recalls Mbaba, a Houston, Texas, native studying neuroscience and behavioral biology and anthropology. “My goals for this summer were to serve the community, develop my social skills, gain medical exposure, and engage in public health practices.”

Mbaba continues to volunteer with the nearby organization, while also being a Resident Assistant, treasurer of the African-Caribbean Student Union and the Black Student Alliance, and secretary of the Mu Epsilon Delta (MED) Club at Oxford. 

Current students with questions about the Tarbutton Leadership Fellows Program can contact Beaudette ( or Molyneaux (

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