Family is a strong bond for the Odom family of El Dorado – so is their individual desire to achieve dreams. Four of the Odom siblings entrusted their dream building to Southern Arkansas University.
That noble desire would land Michael, Jeanette Rodriguez, Nathan, and Mary Katherine Endel on the SAU campus forging their separate paths on the way to their goals.
Their brother, Justin, – the middle child – found his niche on the management track. He works for Brookshire’s in El Dorado.
“Our family views college as a wonderful thing, but we also equally value the importance of finding a good, solid career that will always be in demand,” said Jeanette.
The eldest of the five, Michael received his B.A. in music from SAU in 2006, achieved his master’s of music from the University of Louisiana and now is taking advantage of SAU’s School of Graduate Studies to earn a second master’s in educational administration and supervision.
He never wondered what he would do when he grew up.
“I knew I’d perform and teach music,” he said. “I have steadily been on a music pathway my whole life.”
Michael has worked as a musician since 16, taking his talents to area churches. Today, he teaches music at Central Elementary in Magnolia and serves as organist and choir master for First Presbyterian Church in Camden.
His love for education equals his passion for music and leads him to pursue his second masters that will help him to become a principal.
Michael plans to continue into his doctorate studies.
“At SAU, I received a high quality undergraduate education, thanks to the dedicated music faculty,” he said. “I knew that this standard of excellence carries in to other departments, as well. It made SAU the only choice for the educational leadership program.”
A senior early childhood education major, Jeanette has been an artist all of her life. She learned from some of El Dorado’s finest artists – Helene Lambert and Patrick Johnson. Her early mentors helped forge that natural talent to a professional quality.
“I always assumed that I would have a job that focused primarily on being an artist,” Jeanette said. “I never thought I would become a teacher.”
Jeanette first came to SAU on a full art scholarship. It was in 2D design class that she would meet her husband, Lupe. He graduated with a B.A. in graphic design in 2006. Jeanette, now a mother of three, felt a loss of focus as a studio art major. She took a break from college to be a mom and for five years she savored watching her children grow – ever fascinated with their cognitive development. She also found herself missing the theoretical work and academia. Somewhere in all of that, she discovered that her talents, skills and creativity would come to good use as a teacher.
Academically competitive, Jeanette’s love of writing is as strong as her passion for art.
“As crazy as it sounds, I missed writing long papers and learning new things,” said Jeanette.
Returning to school to pursue an education degree has unveiled an intrigue for psychological and theoretical work as well. Jeanette graduated in December and is excited to start her teaching career.
Her ultimate goal is to become a children’s book author and illustrator.
“People are surprised to find that I have three children and they sometimes ask me how I balance everything,” she said. “My answer is that if you want something bad enough, you will just do whatever you have to do to make it happen. The fact that I play the trumpet also surprises people.”
Mary Katherine’s dreams are concise and clearly defined. The senior business management major has always wanted to live in a hotel – not only live in one, but to own and manage one.
“I came to SAU to obtain a management degree,” she said. “In a few years, I plan on going to the University of Central Florida to get my master’s degree in hospitality management.
She graduated from SAU in December, but her educational pursuits will go on the back burner for now. Mary Katherine and her husband, Elliot, are expecting their first child in May.
“I am going to take a break from my studies and just be a mom for awhile,” Mary Katherine said.
As a child, Nathan’s dream was to work at Lego Land, and eventually he decided the Army might be a good course to take.
“I still want to go into the Army, but I’ve always had an interest in history and wanting to become a history professor,” he said.
The youngest of the Odom family, Nathan found the perfect opportunity to begin pursuing his dreams at SAU.
“Three of my older siblings were already here at SAU, and I received an academic scholarship through the El Dorado Promise, which covered all of my costs,” he said. “SAU is closer to home, so I am able to keep my job and work on the weekends.”
The siblings agree that the professors are the best thing about SAU.
“My favorite is Bart Reed’s world history class, but all of my professors so far have been very qualified and knowledgeable. I am really earning my education here,” he said.
The sophomore history major sees himself joining the military one day, but also becoming a high school teacher. Ultimately, he will get a master’s degree so he can teach on the college level.
An Eagle Scout, Nathan has a sense of adventure that has taken him to the Cimarron Mountains, northern Canada, and the Bahamas.