Karissa Ramsdell

Class: 2012
Major: Wellness and Alternative Medicine
Hometown: North Conway, NH
Career: Residential advisor/personal care assistant for adults with disabilities
Plans: Apply to graduate programs in naturopathic medicine or counseling

Karissa Ramsdell

When Karissa Ramsdell arrived at Johnson State for Orientation weekend in 2008, she had declared biology as her major, with a focus on pre-medicine.

Somewhere along the way – and in part due to a tuition waiver available through the Vermont Student Assistance Corp. for academic programs that are not readily in New England – Ramsdell discovered the Wellness and Alternative Medicine (WAM) Program. JSC is one of only two institutions in the country with a WAM major.

"A year or two into the program, I fell in love with it because wellness and alternative medicine, I discovered, is a way of life," Karissa says. "It was not just going to classes; it became a passion."

Karissa liked the flexibility of the WAM major, which allows students to tailor the program based on their career and academic goals.

"Because I was using WAM as pre-med, I wanted more science-oriented courses," she says. "I found WAM offered me a good mixture of difficult science classes – like both anatomy and physiology courses, all four chemistry classes, nutrition, exercise physiology and biology – and also the WAM courses on drugs, herbs and society; naturopathic medicine; homeopathic medicine; herbalism and Native American meditation. It was a good balance."

When she wasn't studying, Karissa was involved in the Dance Club, Break Away and community service, mentoring a 12-year-old girl. She also worked at a summer camp for teens in Maine.

The WAM Program led Karissa down a different career path. She might have been headed toward medical school at one time; now she works with adults who have suffered traumatic brain injuries or have developmental disabilities.

When interacting with her clients, she draws on "the spiritual aspect" that she explored through her WAM degree. Both WAM and her current job have prompted her desire to apply for graduate programs in naturopathic medicine or counseling.

"I couldn't have picked a better program for myself. I loved WAM, and it helped me find out who I am and helped me find my passions and what I value in life," she says. "I really appreciated the education on how Western medicine and allopathic/alternative medicine can go hand in hand. Wellness and alternative medicine is a way of life."