Living a multi-dimensional life

 photo of students in JOrdan

Put your 3d Glasses on

During her time at WMU, King has specialized in neurobiology and business management. “Science and business are distinct lenses through which to view the world,” she says. “Much like 3D glasses require both red and blue lenses to let the user perceive depth, interdisciplinary study deepens our ability to perceive complexity. We are not living in a 2D world. I urge my fellow students to reflect on their vision for the future, their passions and their strengths.”

King’s reflection on her strengths led to her work with refugees resettling in Kalamazoo, where she met a partner in this work, student Sydney Fernandez. They recently spent several months in Jordan developing the framework for a volunteer program that promotes synergistic learning between international language students at the Qasid Arabic Institute and struggling youth. “Two Jordanian women, Umayma Alshammari and Ruba Abu Hijlih, now lead the program,and we provide operations support and volunteer resource management,” King notes. “Compassion is the common language that binds us all together. We all share a vision, to mobilize young people to use and pass on their valuable, diverse skills. To date, this program has provided more than 4,000 hours of English language education to Syrian, Palestinian and Jordanian youth—simultaneously providing an opportunity for volunteers to develop their skills as teachers.”

King was also instrumental in the development of a pilot program at WMU called the Global Leaders Program, along with Fernandez and Marisa Weller, colleague and fellow student. The program offers students innovative opportunities to cultivate leadership skills through service-learning and global engagement; it serves as the university’s first entirely student-led leadership development program with a foreign service component. 

The program is three semesters long, and during fall and spring, participants complete a student-led leadership and international development curriculum as well as volunteer in the Kalamazoo community through multiple community partners. The program culminates in summer when global leaders travel to Lesvos, Greece, where they collaborate with partner organizations on capstone projects in a refugee camp. The Global Leaders Program fosters student leadership through service to others, and King’s ambitions don’t stop there. She and Fernandez recently foundeda nonprofit called Dignity for Humanity, focused on engaging student leaders across projects in diverse sectors, including capacity building and global security. 

After graduation, King will pursue her master’s degree in Finland at the University of Helsinki and recently received a grant from the university to study sustainable urban agriculture and research farming practices that promote a resilient environment and community.

“I plan to develop a robust, replicable framework for the implementation of urban agriculture initiatives,” says King. “I intend to continue my work with displaced people and hope to establish community gardening initiatives at refugee camps and community centers, which will provide both nutritional and psychosocial support for refugee populations.” 

Photo of King with rescued dog Gaia.“Put your 3D glasses on.”

That is the advice that senior MacKenzie King shares with fellow students and others about solving some of the world’s most challenging problems.