Senior Leads Ambassador Program for School of Applied Sciences

Kaleigh Watkins takes on new leadership role

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Applied Sciences has named Kaleigh Watkins, a senior applied gerontology major from Dallas, as the new president of its ambassador program.

The school’s ambassador program allows students to participate in recruiting events and postcard-writing campaigns for prospective students.

Kelley Jenkins, founder of the program and assistant to the dean in the School of Applied Sciences, plans out logistics for recruiting events, including ambassador assignments.

Kaleigh Watkins, a senior applied gerontology major from Dallas, has been named as president of the ambassador program at the School of Applied Sciences. Photo by Sarah Sapp/UM School of Applied Sciences

“Kayleigh has come in and run the day-to-day operations, and ambassadors show up to help,” Jenkins said. “At the last ambassador event in Oxford – it was on a Wednesday afternoon when most faculty and staff could not attend the event – Kaleigh had enough ambassadors there.

“It was a student-led event, and I am amazed at the hard work she puts into this program. My goal when I started the program was to eventually be able to just be an adviser, and I can do that this year under Kaleigh’s leadership.”

Watkins said she finds the role rewarding when she meets students who have been recruited by an ambassador. During the application process for ambassadors that Watkins oversaw, she was thrilled with the number of applicants who had been moved by the actions of an ambassador.

“After going through this last round of applications, so many people said they had been reached out to by ambassadors and that is why they wanted to join, which touched my heart” Watkins said.

Watkins loves getting to meet future students through Fall Friday networking events. Fall Fridays are for students such as Watkins and other ambassadors to meet incoming students who want to learn more about UM programs through a browse fair.

“Those Fall Fridays really get the ambassadors in a happy mood, and they just make me laugh,” Watkins said.

Watkins stays busy with her role as president and as a student in applied gerontology. She chose the major because of the connections she has with adults, and gerontology deals with the study of aging throughout the life cycle.

“Honestly, I get along with adults sometimes better than people my own age,” she said. “I get them, and they make sense.”

In Watkins first two years of undergraduate studies, she had her mind set on becoming a nurse. Her plans changed when she took a course on elder law, which is a study of the elder client and basic law relating primarily to them.

“When I took elder law, something just clicked, so I went to Dr. Carithers to tell her before my senior year that I changed my mind and my major to applied gerontology,”  Watkins said.

Carithers, a professor of nutrition and hospitality management who teaches applied gerontology courses, is Watkins’ adviser.

“Kaleigh is a great ambassador and leader who can articulate the importance of being open-minded to the independent and collaborative opportunities applied sciences degrees provide to students,” Carithers said.

“Kaleigh took serious what she learned in her courses and mentorship sessions and was able to see accomplishing her career goals through a different route. She is now preparing to pursue law school or public policy opportunities upon graduation. She has really distinguished herself as an independent thinker and leader.”

Watkins said she enjoys how personable everyone in the School of Applied Sciences is and that she has built relationships with classmates and staff. Her relationship with her advisers goes beyond just showing up to their office to schedule her courses for each semester.

“I cannot explain a better feeling than walking into an office or a Fall Friday and people, especially on a campus this big, knowing me,” she said. “Not just my name, but what makes me, me.”

For more information about the ambassador program, email Jenkins at For more information about applied gerontology at UM, visit