Campus Student Feature: Mackenzie Whittaker

Campus Student Feature: Mackenzie Whittaker
Recruiting students from across the U.S., Campus is the new alternative to online community college. We’re on a mission to maximize access to a world-class education to set students up for success no matter what their next step is. Read on to learn about our students’ unique experiences.

Let us introduce you to the busy world of Mackenzie Whittaker: an Air Force med tech in San Antonio, Texas, who effortlessly marries the honor of military duty with academic ambition. 

Balancing her service with an online business degree program, Mackenzie's story isn't just about the transition from high school to the military and then to virtual classrooms. It stands as a testament to tenacity, dedication, and the pursuit of educational growth.

Exploring Medicine & the Military

Originally from upstate New York, Mackenzie’s high school years came with a few opportunities for her to earn certifications before graduation. From the time she was a sophomore in high school, she began taking classes in nursing and medical techniques. 

When we asked her what initially piqued her interest, she noted that for her, “it doesn't hurt to know about medicine because then you know how to help in any situation.”

For Mackenzie, the time that she spent learning about medicine and medical techniques gave her the tools she needed to help people – a calling that she sought to explore that ultimately allowed her to gain some certifications in addition to earning her high school diploma.

“I graduated from high school my senior year as a certified nursing assistant,” Mackenzie told Campus. 

“I decided to earn the certification because healthcare is something that they're always going to need people for; you can't replace nurses and sympathy with robots. My next step was joining the military because it’s where you can have the greatest impact on people.”

Mackenzie’s pursuit of nursing and medical knowledge led her from New York to Texas in 2021, where she works as a med tech on a military base in San Antonio. While there, she was introduced to another unique opportunity: becoming a nationally registered emergency medical technician – or EMT. 

While the process for earning your NREMT credentials can take quite a bit of time, Mackenzie shared with us a little bit about what her certification process was like. 

“Instead of going through the class for six months, I did it in six weeks,” Mackenzie shared. 

“It was a very condensed version. I took a few tests – the written test and the skills test – and then I went to my phase two location, where I did all my hands-on training and completed the hours I needed for my certification.”

In reflecting on the process of earning her NREMT license, Mackenzie pointed out that while her time in the military not only offered her the opportunity to gain the skills she needed to help others wherever she is in the country, her time in the Air Force also gave her the chance to give those in need more assistance than if she’d gone on to become only a state-licensed EMT.

“I've realized that being a civilian EMT versus a military EMT, you're able to do more as a military EMT,” Mackenzie noted. “I was considered an EMT basic so I have the basic level of knowledge. In the military, I can give IVs or IV medication, whereas if I was on the civilian side, I can't, even though I have that knowledge to do that.”

Seeking a Degree for Financial Freedom

While on base in Texas, Mackenzie determined that she wanted to continue her educational pathway and began looking for college programs that could fit her busy work schedule. She found Campus’s online associate in business degree program and immediately applied, looking forward to understanding how the skills she’d learn in business could help her in the future. 

“Growing up, me and my mom had a really hard time,” Mackenzie revealed to us. “She never got to teach me all of the business or all the financial stuff that's needed for being an adult. She told me how to do things, like saving a percentage of your paycheck and all that, but I figure that studying business will help me further my understanding and motivation to help myself financially.”

Now that she has completed her first quarter in the program, Mackenzie is starting to gain the skills and know-how that she was seeking, and is learning even more along the way! 

One of the major tools that she’s learned this past quarter came up in her first business course.

“Being in my Intro to Business class, it actually made me research things,” Mackenzie stated. “For example, we were talking about the balance of payments and the import and export trading deficiencies and surpluses. It actually got me motivated and I started researching it and I was like, ‘This is a lot of information that I didn't know, but I probably should've, and now I do.’”

Thinking about how each of her classes has given her access to new information, Mackenzie also highlighted for us how some of her other courses are giving her the tools she needs to become a better student. 

“My college success class opened me up to realizing that my old ways of being a student in high school were terrible,” Mackenzie shared with a laugh. “In order to pass an exam, you actually have to study for it.”

Connecting with Professors

Beyond gaining new skills in her online college experience, Mackenzie has also started making lasting connections with other people in the program. From day one, Mackenzie has been able to connect with tons of Campus support staff and dedicated faculty, and a few notable presences have impacted Mackenzie in some profound ways. 

“I'd say that Professor Darien Johnson definitely has changed my perspective,” she said. “He seems like such a carefree, happy, bubbly personality that is kind of infectious when you're in his lecture. I could join his lecture being in a terrible mood and then it's like five minutes in, I'm laughing and smiling.”

Professor Johnson is not the only professor whom Mackenzie has felt that she can connect with. In fact, Mackenzie was pleasantly surprised to find common ground - literally - with one of her other professors: Dr. Amy Murphy.

“She makes a point to connect with her students,” Mackenzie said. “On the first day, I happened to be wearing a Syracuse hoodie, but then she asked where I was from, and I said San Antonio, Texas. And it's funny that we're both connected to both of those spots.”

Mackenzie then went on to explain how the connection she had with Dr. Murphy resonated with her and also impacted her views on writing.

Professor Murphy has definitely changed the way that I write now. She's pretty much told me when going over an essay that I had all the ideas, I just needed to extend the thought process a little bit,” Mackenzie noted. “She's changed my thought process on how to write.”

Making Friends Online

However, not all of the connections that Mackenzie makes are with staff and faculty. A lot of the most profound relationships Mackenzie has made during her time at Campus are with her classmates.

“So most of the time my classmates and I start connecting because of a group project or a presentation or a discussion,” Mackenzie explained.

“We connect there and then we happen to continue to direct message each other on the outside. I actually had a couple of people where I'm just like, ‘how are you doing? I hope you're having a good day,’ and then it hit me, ‘oh my gosh, I'm actually making friends.’”

Despite some of the initial impressions students may have about going to college online, Mackenzie found that making friends and connecting with others came pretty naturally throughout the term. 

“I joined virtual college and at first I thought ‘cool, I don't have to see people in person,’ and then I started making friends with people,” she said. “Now, it’s the end of my first quarter and I'm signing up to be an orientation leader.”

Connecting with others gave Mackenzie the confidence to seek out other opportunities to help others not just in her day job, but giving other students a hand in navigating their first week of classes as an Orientation Leader. 

And what’s even better, Mackenzie is getting involved in connecting with students by starting her own student organization: the Paranormal Group – a student club that allows students to connect with each other and share some of their favorite stories about the strange and the supernatural.

Learn More About the Campus Experience 

If Mackenzie’s story resonates with you, or her words about Campus have caught your attention, be sure to check out the Campus online associate degree in business program or request more info here.

You can join inspiring students just like Mackenzie by applying to become a Campus Scholar today!

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