When you’re born and raised in Guthrie, the previous capital of Oklahoma, being involved in everything is a staple for the brightest high school students, and international business and nonprofit management senior Mekaila Carey was no exception.
As the oldest of six siblings, Carey paved the way for her siblings by participating in softball, basketball, track, pole vaulting, dancing and many other activities. Her main passion was the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls, a nonprofit organization focused on community service, confidence and professional development. Eventually, Carey rose to assume the role of President for the Order in the state of Oklahoma, and soon after she was selected to the International President of the Order.
“For me, personally, it was something I felt like I was really good at, but it was something I felt God wanted me to do,” Carey said. “It’s something I’m so grateful for, and between all of that and coming to OSU, it has actually paid for my school. I put a lot of time, effort and money into it, but you get skills and friendships and networking connections to people all across the world, and that’s something that still helps me today. It’s a family that I have, and I really appreciate that.”
Even though Carey’s entire family bleeds orange, Carey wanted to rebel against her Oklahoma State University roots. She grew up going to OSU football games and tailgating with her family, and in the end, OSU won her over. She didn’t tell her parents she had been accepted until Christmas, where she surprised her family with a framed OSU acceptance letter.
Freshman orientation finally came, and Carey faced her first dilemma: choosing a major.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do, which was really odd for me because I’m a very A-type personality, I plan things out, I’m a go-getter, I get it done, but that was something I struggled with,” Carey said. “I chose international business because I knew that I wanted to travel, I love traveling and it’s an important way to learn about yourself and about the world… I knew I couldn’t go wrong with business skills, I feel like those are important things that all people should learn.
“Along the way, I told my advisor I was interested in working with nonprofits… I’ve worked with nonprofits my whole life, so my heart was there. It was perfect and overlapped well, so I decided to go for it.”
Throughout her freshman year, Carey was still serving as the International President of the Order, which took up a majority of her time, but that didn’t stop her from getting involved with other activities on campus such as Cowboy Cousins, joining a sorority and studying abroad in Mexico.
Cowboy Cousins tapped in to Carey’s international interests and enabled her to learn from her Japanese, Ugandan and Malaysian “cousins.”
“Cowboy Cousins is a program that pairs OSU American students with international students, whether they’re here for a semester or come to college here,” Carey said. “It’s a way to pair them with someone who they can go to and ask questions about the culture or show them around town, just different things. But it’s also a way for OSU students to see what another culture is like, to learn from other people, so it’s a great interchange of information and ideas.”
Carey also joined the Spears School of Business’ Mentor Program her sophomore year, which also happened to be the year she was selected as one of OSU’s Top Ten Freshmen. All three of Carey’s mentors over her first three years helped her fine-tune her interests and improve on her résumé.
“That meant a lot to me that [my mentor] took the time to come to this reception for me, she didn’t know me that well, we had only been mentor and protégé for a couple of months, to me that just shows you how intentional people are,” Carey said. “Alums really do want to help. We focused on scholarships and different things like that. She really was like another grandma.”
Her advice to incoming freshmen: you don’t have to be involved in everything.
“Don’t feel like you have to fill your résumé with everything; if you’re going to pick something, make sure that you have the time to dedicate to it. Don’t just pay your dues and never come so you can put it on your résumé… what did you really get out of it?”