Student Ambassador Spotlight: Meet McKenzie!

March 21, 2024

McKenzie Harris of Bend OR is a psychology major and environmental studies minor.

Why did you choose Western?

When looking into colleges, I was initially looking for a small liberal arts school because I wanted to know my professors, and I didn’t like the crowding and impersonal feeling of big schools. In addition, I wanted to go to college on the West Coast. Western isn’t a small liberal arts school, but I had heard many good things about it and I knew that its honors program might function like a small liberal arts college within Western’s larger structure. When I was accepted into the Honors College, I decided Western was the best fit for me because it would allow me to have a personal and intersectional course of learning (through Honors) while also having access to the wider resources of a larger school than the other small colleges I applied to.


What do you like about Western?

I like many things about Western, such as its location; the Pacific Northwest gives us such a variety of natural environments, like mountains, forests, and the ocean, while also being relatively close to big cities like Seattle and Vancouver, BC. I love Western’s campus with the arboretum, brick buildings, and multitudes of pretty studying areas to discover. In addition, I like that I’ve enjoyed all of my professors so far. I feel like the quality of education I get from my teachers here is very high. Last, I like that at Western, there are so many different kinds of people and activities. I know that whatever my interests and passions are, there are people who will share them somewhere.

How is your student ambassador experience? What are your duties?

I’m still quite new to the student ambassadors. Even though I’ve only worked at a few shifts, I’ve already noticed that the ambassador team is remarkably welcoming and kind compared to many environments I’ve worked in. To be an ambassador, it seems, is to be part of a big new group of friends.

 The events that I work at as a student ambassador are often for the benefit of Western’s donors and alumni, and my duties usually include helping with miscellaneous set up/take down tasks, helping people enter the event by checking them in or running the coat check, and interacting with Western’s VIPs to share my experience of being a student. Every event is different, however, so ambassadors must be ready to do whatever tasks are assigned to us. I’ve enjoyed all my shifts so far because of the relative low stress of my duties, and also because I always look forward to seeing the other ambassadors and getting to spend time with them.

What is your area of academic interest?

I would like to join a psychology lab next year to get some research experience. This quarter, my favorite class was Ecogastronomy, which is an environmental studies class that teaches us about the food industry. The class is unique because it focuses on unifying health, sustainability, and pleasure in food.

Are you the beneficiary of philanthropy at Western (scholarship, grant, travel experience, etc)?  If so, how has that made a difference for you?  

I’m a recipient of the WUE (Western Undergraduate Exchange) 4-year undergraduate scholarship, but I don’t know who actually funds it, or if it is provided by WWU specifically. This scholarship is part of what made Western a feasible college option for me, because it provides me with reduced tuition for all four years. It has helped to reduce the financial burden that my family has to carry to put me through college.

What would you like to say to someone who has made a gift to support Western students and programs?

I’m a strong believer in the value of education, and the importance of learning things for the sake of learning, beyond mere job preparedness. People who financially support students and educational institutions are so important because they allow students to experience the value of education without having to overwork themselves at paid jobs just to remain in school. I’m so grateful to all those who donate to Western because their help allows me to have access to the health center, and the gym, and amazing faculty members, and all these things that enhance my experience as a human in college.

What do you do when you aren’t in class?

During the school year, most of my time is spent on classes and homework. However, when I’m not doing schoolwork, I enjoy being with my friends, being a homebody at my apartment, and doing my hobbies, such as reading and playing guitar. I also spend some time outside of class volunteering with my community service club (Bellingham Rotaract!), the Volunteer Chore Program, and the Bellingham Friends of the Library.

Where is your happy place either on campus or in Bellingham?

On campus, my happy place is the library. There are so many secluded places hidden in its halls, and great views that I can look out at while I’m doing homework. I like to perch, so I like finding new places in the library that have a view down onto campus or the bay. In addition, I find it calming to be surrounded by books.

What are your professional dreams and goals?  Where could you see yourself in five years?

What I mostly want is to do something that contributes to the public good, because I think that’s the best use of my time and abilities. I love psychology and environmental studies (my major and minor), so I will hopefully be able to work in one of those fields, but as I said, my only main goal is to be helping people. In five years, I can see myself still being in school. I would like to get a master’s degree, but between my undergrad graduation and then, I would like to take some time to get work experience and become more stable in my goals before pursuing a more specialized degree.

For more information about the Student Ambassador program or to learn how to get involved, please check out this page