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Division of Student Affairs

Student discovers her true calling while tutoring in the Multicultural Center

Department: Office of Multicultural Student Services

For as long as she can remember, McKayla Wixom wanted to be a veterinarian. Nothing seemed more rewarding to her than helping a sick or injured animal regain its health and live a full and happy life. She studied hard in high school to make her dream come true—even graduating as her class valedictorian in Vancouver, Wash.

As the youngest sibling in the family and one of three to go to college, McKayla wanted to blaze her own trail rather than attend WSU where her sister graduated. However, she said it was impossible to overlook the fact that WSU has one of the best veterinary medicine schools in the country. That was enough to convince McKayla to try WSU. She excelled in her classes and earned a spot to enroll in the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Life did not always go so smoothly for Wixom. One morning when she was seven years-old, she woke-up for school and learned that her dad died of a heart attack during the night. He was a healthy 47-year-old engineer whom McKayla described as very creative and able to fix anything.

“That’s the day my childhood ended and my picture-perfect life began to crumble,” Wixom said. Her mom began working to make ends meet and could not spend as much time at home with the kids. To make matters worse, Wixom’s grandmother, a strong pillar of support for the family, died a year later.

While members of the community offered support, many advised McKayla to become self-sufficient and be the best at everything she does. “I felt tremendous pressure and sometimes became physically ill due to the anxiety of always needing to perform at the highest level,” she said.

She also received mixed messages at church. There she was taught that God loves you more when you succeed and less when you don’t. Not feeling supported there, she moved to a new one where she discovered God’s love is not dependent upon her success. “My entire outlook on life changed at that point.”

McKayla has worked many jobs in Pullman to help finance her education. She is a modern dance instructor for University Recreation, a small group leader at Resonate Church, and works in two research labs on campus.

It was during her job as a biology tutor in Multicultural Student Service’s Academic Enrichment Center when she discovered that teaching is her real passion.  “One day I was tutoring a student and I had a flippant thought that if I wasn’t going to be a veterinarian, I would become a teacher,” she said. “That thought wouldn’t go away.”

As a tutor for two years, she loved the personal interaction she had with those she helped and relished the opportunity to get to know students with backgrounds different from hers. She enjoyed hearing about the lives and experiences of her students and sharing with them her own trials and tribulations. “I could see I was making an impact on them and I realized the Lord has provided me with a special gift.”

McKayla said one of the hardest things she has had to do is inform the College of Veterinary Medicine that she decided to give up her spot. Some people, including herself, questioned if it was the right decision to give up the prestige, money and security of being a veterinarian—admitting that she was looking forward to people calling her Dr. Wixom one day.

In the end, McKayla said it is being able to build long-lasting connections with high school students and make a positive difference in their lives that will give her immense joy. Wixom will graduate in May with a degree in zoology and has applied to the Master’s in Teaching Program in WSU’s College of Education.

Not only did Wixom find her true calling in life at WSU, she met her fiancé in the Honor’s College.  “I thank the Lord that I ended up at Wazzu,” she said with a smile.