When Melissa Rixon entered Johnson State, she registered as a music major and planned on becoming a professional violist. But a lot can change when you find out what you’re truly meant for.
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 was totally satisfied and happy ever since, all the way through the initial wellness 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.”
Melissa appreciated the interdisciplinary approach of the Wellness and Alternative Medicine (WAM) Program and says it gave her a solid foundation for graduate school and for her current position — which she obtained immediately after graduating in May 2014 — as a program educator for the Champlain Valley Area Health Education Center in St. Albans, Vt.
Through WAM, Melissa took courses that focused on alternative medicine, such as homeopathy and Chinese medicine and Introduction to Naturopathy, in addition to Western biology classes, microbiology and pharmacology.
“The WAM degree was great in that I could both meet my science prerequisites without compromising on alternative medicine,” she says. “At the same time, I was completing the pre-med classes needed for naturopathy graduate programs, which are essentially medical school programs.”
Science faculty such as John Pellerin (chemistry) and Hans Haverkamp (allied health sciences) both gave Melissa the balance she sought 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 was able to 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 found time to get involved on campus. She was 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 campus-wide committee that selects a common book each year. She also served a year as president of Green Solutions, a JSC environmental club.
Melissa looks back on her experience at JSC with fondness. “I could go into the president’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. It’s a casual environment where you get to know everyone involved with the campus community.”