Melissa Rixon

Melissa Rixon

Class of 2014
Rutland, VT

Major: Wellness and Alternative Medicine

Favorite weekend activity: Being outdoors, reading, playing viola

Career Plans: Naturopathy

"Naturopathy graduate programs are essentially medical school programs, so you have to have pre-med classes in order to do such a program. The WAM degree is great in that I can... meet my science prerequisites without compromising on alternative medicine."


When Melissa Rixon entered Johnson State, she registered as a music major and planned on becoming a professional violist. Then, one day, she discovered her true calling.

As she walked to register for classes her third semester, she suddenly had a strong urge to switch her major. She hasn't looked back.

"I have been totally satisfied and happy ever since, all the way through the initial wellness courses, especially the lecture courses," Melissa explains. "I found naturopathy through that exploration. It really clicked with me. The principles of naturopathy are the principles I live by. The best kind of medicine is preventative medicine, so taking care of yourself from the start is the way to stay healthy. Also, education is a key component. Naturopaths take their role as teachers really seriously. They empower people to take care of themselves and educate them about their bodies."

Melissa appreciates the interdisciplinary approach of the Wellness and Alternative Medicine (WAM) Program and believes it's giving her a solid foundation for graduate school.

"Naturopathy graduate programs are essentially medical school programs, so you have to have pre-med classes in order to do such a program," she says. "With WAM, I have been able to take courses that focus on alternative medicine, such as homeopathy and Chinese medicine and Introduction to Naturopathy, in addition to taking classes based on Western biology, microbiology and pharmacology, and exploring germ theory and pharmaceuticals. The WAM degree is great in that I can do both: meet my science prerequisites without compromising on alternative medicine."

The program's director, Susan Green, provides much support and guidance to students, according to Melissa.

"She's really great to work with," she says. "She has such an interesting perspective and isn't attached to preaching any one idea to you. She's excited that you have a passion, and she's excited to help you achieve that."

Courses with science faculty such as John Pellerin (chemistry) and Hans Haverkamp (allied health sciences) have given Melissa the balance she seeks in health and medicine.

"It's great to have both perspectives," she notes. "I think that's something that's pretty unique to the WAM program. I can have the best of both worlds and still graduate in four years."

Even with the intensive studying that comes with a WAM major, Melissa still finds time to get involved on campus. She's a resident assistant in Martinetti Hall, director of public relations for the Student Government Association, a peer tutor for students taking science classes, and a member of the campuswide committee that selects a common book each year for the first-year student experience. In the past, she served as president of Green Solutions, a JSC environmental club.

She enjoys the close-knit community of Johnson State, where everyone supports each other. "I can go into President Murphy's office and say hi to her and chat with her," Melissa says. "There is that closeness; there isn't any distance, where you feel you can't approach people. I feel just as comfortable walking into the dean of students' office as I do walking into my biology class and talking to my professor. It's a casual environment where you get to know everyone involved with the campus community."

Melissa felt that way from the start, during her first year at Johnson State. "I loved being here for Orientation. I felt so welcome being here on campus. I felt so much at home, so much so that from Orientation all the way to Fall Family Weekend, I didn't call my parents. They called and asked me if I was OK!"