Mel Baxter has dedicated her life to helping students reach their full potential at The University of Texas in Austin. Our #WCW inspires young professionals each day to accomplish things they never thought they could...
1. What's your story? What makes you unique?
I define a lot of who I am by where I've been. I was raised in Kansas, attended The University of Georgia (Go Dawgs!) for college, attended Clemson University for graduate school, lived in the middle of San Francisco and two weeks ago I moved to Texas, and am living in one of the coolest cities I've ever known-- Austin. In each place that I've lived, I've learned and picked up things that have become a big part of who I am. For instance, living in Georgia gave me a passion for community and helping others feel welcome (and an even bigger obsession with college football), while California continuously taught me to love and appreciate others despite differences and without judgment. Though I have enjoyed some locations more than others, I am grateful for what I have learned in each place and what I can take to the next place.
2. What motivates you?
Relationships motivate me. I love hearing other people's stories and learning from the people around me. I think that is ultimately why I have ended up in Higher Education. I love making connections with other people-- whether it's a shared passion or something as small as a favorite restaurant. It is so exciting to me to be able to either figure out all of the connections I have with another person, or, on the flip side, to realize that I have absolutely nothing in common with someone and can therefore learn so much from them.
3. Who is a hero of yours?
My little sister, Olivia, is a hero of mine. She dreams big. She loves unconditionally. She's creative beyond belief. Ever since Olivia has been little, she has had her heart set on moving to New York (Meredith, can you hire her after she graduates? ;)). Once Olivia sets her mind to something, she does everything she can to get there, which is how I know that she'll not only move to New York one day, but she'll be amazing out there. I strive to be more like my sister and dream the way that she does. Without her even realizing it, she is a good reminder for me to always dream big.
4. What's your future plan? Your goals?
I'm living my dream right now-- running a Visitor Center and working with amazing student ambassadors at a school that I am so excited and proud to be a part of. I am very content and happy with where I am, but I hope to continuously connect with and learn from my colleagues in the Undergraduate Admissions/Visitor Relations field. Additionally, I had some pretty amazing mentors in college (specifically my Visitor Center and Orientation bosses), and I am doing my best to create a welcoming and exciting work atmosphere for my students, just as my mentors did for me.
Personally, I'm excited to be back in the south and to be living within driving distance of my family for the first time since I left for college. I hope to put some roots down in Austin and truly get to know this city that feels more like home every day. I hope to become just as integrated with and excited about the culture at UT as I was during my time at UGA.
A goal that is both professional and personal is to be adventurous. My dad is one of the most adventurous people I know, and he has instilled a desire in me to always seek out adventure. My goal is to continue to do this always-- in my workplace, through travel, with the people I surround myself with. My life has been much more exciting and rewarding due to the adventures I have been on, and I hope this will be the case for the rest of my life.
5. If you could give one piece of advice, what would it be?
Challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone as often as possible. This sounds scary, but you will be proud of yourself in the end. Apply for a job you aren't qualified for, move to a city you don't know much about, introduce yourself to that person on the subway-- you'll be better off for taking a chance rather than wondering what could have been.
6. What is something you feel strongly about (a cause, belief, etc.)?
I feel strongly that all people should be able to attend college. During my time at Stanford, I was completely blown away by the amazing financial aid system. Students who never thought they would be able to afford college are attending Stanford for free, and that is amazing and encouraging to me. I hope that universities will continue to enhance their financial aid programs so that students of any socioeconomic status can attend college.
7. What's one of the coolest things you've ever done?
At this point in my life, I would say that working at the Stanford Visitor Center is the coolest thing I've ever done. Working in this setting was challenging, but refreshing. I was constantly interacting with people from all over the world, including a decent percentage of people who didn't speak English. I had the chance to be a part of one of the most amazing and innovative communities on the planet. The best part of my job was the opportunity to work with 75 amazing student tour guides who I adore. Though my students always had a million things going on, they always had smiles on their faces and couldn't wait to share their love for the University with others. Besides sharing their passion for Stanford, I was always so impressed by their excitement for what they were learning in class/on campus and excitement to make the world a better place. I learned so much from my students, and I am a better person for knowing them.
If you'd like to reach out to Mel with questions, you can contact her HERE.