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Making a care-full career choice

Tennessee Wesleyan experiences empower senior in his pursuit to help others

Volunteers often say they benefit more from their efforts than the people they’re helping.

Todd Cox is no different.

As he prepares to graduate from Tennessee Wesleyan University in May, Cox specifically recalled one of several times he managed an AmeriCorps VISTA mobile food pantry as an off-site coordinator for the Love Thy Neighbor Project.

“A client came up to me, gave me a hug and thanked me, saying, ‘You all give me hope and make sure I don’t go hungry. You’re the biggest blessing I have,’” Cox said. “I remember being humbled and speechless. After that, I knew that helping people was exactly where I was meant to be in my career.”

This confirmation gave Cox the confidence to boldly move forward with pursuing a major in religion (pre-seminary) at TWU. After graduation, Cox will serve as director of ministries for Allen Memorial United Methodist Church in Athens, Tennessee.

He grew up in Lebanon, Tennessee, and lived in the same house his entire childhood before moving to Athens to attend TWU. He is selfless in his commitment to help people. Throughout his college experiences, Cox set his sights on a job where he can work with and lead others who share his passion.

Tennessee Wesleyan brought him closer to realizing this dream.

“TWU has prepared me to be the most effective leader I believe there is — a servant leader,” said Cox, who also served as TWU Student Government Association president. “Leadership doesn’t always mean you’re the general waving the flag, but that you’re leading by example too and getting your hands dirty along with everyone else.”

“TWU taught me to humble myself and how to be effective in loving and serving for and with people. It prepared me for wherever my career might take me.”

Personal attention is Bulldogs’ detail

Cox is his family’s first Bulldog, but it took more than a full-tuition scholarship to bring him to Athens.

Personal contact and conversations with TWU Chaplain Chris Dover helped to seal the deal.

The plan for Cox originally was to attend the same college as his sister. But his parents encouraged him to apply to TWU so he’d have a second option. Shortly after touring the university with his mom, he attended an event in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and met Dover, who invited him to visit TWU a second time.

“I remember my second visit vividly and sitting and talking with Chaplain Dover for a couple hours in his office — just him, my dad and me,” Cox said. “After that talk and lots of prayer leading up to it, I looked at my dad and told him I was going to be a Bulldog.”

Eyes open to unforeseen opportunities

Getting involved with AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) was an unexpected opportunity that became one of Cox’s most meaningful TWU student experiences.

In addition to helping him develop non-profit management skills, serving as an off-site operations coordinator showed Cox how people can make the biggest impact when they work together.

“It’s taught me about the need in the world and given me first-hand experience in how unique the needs of a community like Athens are,” he said.

And the priceless opportunities he had as a student went beyond the Athens city limits. In 2016, he was invited to speak at the Southeastern Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church conference that happens every four years.

Presenting to the conference leadership teams, delegates from all the southeastern states and church bishops during a pivotal time in the United Methodist connection humbled Cox.

“As talks of schism and split seem to become more and more prominent each day in the UMC, being able to go up to a mic and say that we as the young people of the UMC are here to lead along with everyone else was absolutely incredible,” he said.