Tenell Rhodes promised his mother 30 years ago that he would earn a bachelor’s degree. Now, as a Charter Oak State College (COSC) alumnus and graduate student, he has achieved that and so much more.
Rhodes graduated in the COSC class of 2020 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration, Management and Operations. He was honored to be chosen as the student speaker for COSC’s 2020 Virtual Commencement Ceremony, where he congratulated his class on overcoming unexpected obstacles and challenges like the coronavirus pandemic.
It didn’t end there. He threw out the first pitch at a recent Hartford Yard Goats game – a perfect strike –and celebrated the COSC classes of 2020 and 2021.
“It was definitely a fantastic experience,” said Rhodes, who is now working towards a master’s degree in Organizational Effectiveness and Leadership at the online college.
“Tenell’s story is an inspiration,” said CSCU President Terrence Cheng, who met Rhodes after his Yard Goats first pitch. “It is a testament to the power of public higher education – combined with hard work and determination – to expand horizons and change lives. I thank Tenell for sharing his experience and for being such a strong ambassador for Charter Oak and for our public colleges and universities.”
Rhodes, who is vice president of Business Development at Clarus Commerce in Rocky Hill, began his educational journey at the University of Hartford studying electrical engineering. He had a wonderful experience there, he said, but life challenges and career opportunities took him in a different direction.
He then attended Hartford Seminary — now Hartford International University for Religion and Peace — where he discovered that his Black Ministries Program certificate had value at COSC and was encouraged by Hartford Seminary’s director of recruitment and admissions to contact the college.
He found that his two-year ministry certificate and electrical engineering coursework would apply to a COSC undergrad degree. Management and leadership — whether in a church or a company — he said applies to everything.
“COSC admissions staff are miracle workers,” Rhodes said. “If you tell them your career goals, they will point you in the right direction. They go above and beyond to personally know you.”
After successfully earning a bachelor’s degree with a 4.0 GPA at COSC, he is now taking on a master’s degree in organizational effectiveness and leadership which is directly applicable to his church and work environments. His thesis project, he said, will be about managing the sacred and the secular.
Rhodes is juggling his studies with his job and position as an ordained minister at the Abundant Life Tabernacle of Hartford. He has also held leadership positions at Triple Helix Corp. and General Digital Corp., but Rhodes believes that his master’s degree work helped him obtain his new position at Clarus Commerce.
“My degree meshes with this new job and I’m appreciative of it and feel divinely inspired,” he said. “I’m motivated, take education seriously, and perform to my personal best to achieve greater goals with new challenges.”
At COSC, Rhodes has served as a student ambassador and is still very involved. He is treasurer of the Student Association and board member of the COSC Alumni Association where he is the voice of current and former students. “I am glad to be that voice to help many others,” Rhodes said.
Rhodes is originally from Brooklyn, NY, and has been in Connecticut since 1992, with 17 years in Hartford where he was part of the NRZ and neighborhood leadership training program.
Although his career, church and family now keep him busy, Rhodes is contemplating running for public office in his hometown of Wethersfield, or possibly earning another master’s degree or a doctorate. He is even hoping to teach at COSC or another CSCU school next year.
Rhodes considers COSC the state’s best kept secret, as his degree gets continually put to good use in his job and ministry. COSC is even a family affair for him. Rhodes’ daughter, Joan’ay Rhodes, has been a COSC student since Spring 2020, and is expecting to graduate in December. He also has four other children who could potentially become COSC students.
“COSC shows that getting a degree can be done at a lower cost with a bigger impact,” he said. “There is no reason not to love this school.”