“I started out majoring in technology education,” recalls Dixon, a 2006 Mississippi State alumna. “I’ve always liked and understood technology, so it seemed only natural to major in something I found to be interesting.”
Since many students change their minds about their majors during their time in college, Dixon felt lucky to have made up her mind so quickly. There was one small problem – she had no interest in actually teaching the subject.
Dixon decided that it might be a good time to visit her academic adviser, Dr. Connie Forde, to find out what other options were out there.
“Dr. Forde really understood me,” says Dixon. “She made me feel important, taking the time to listen to me and helping me come up with a course of action to fit my needs.”
Dixon knew she wanted a major where she could help others, so Forde encouraged her to consider a career in information technology services. She did just that, not only earning a bachelor’s degree in the program at MSU, but later a master’s degree from Troy University as well.
Dixon has been a proud Mississippi State Bulldog for as long as she can remember. Dixon’s parents met as students at MSU, and her father played on the football team. She followed in her parents’ footsteps, making Mississippi State her alma mater as well. But she never dreamed that her career path would one day lead her back to the university that she loved so much.
She began her career at Stark Aerospace in Columbus, MS, and while she was helping others in her role there, she still felt there was something missing. Dixon thought back to her time at Mississippi State, remembering her academic adviser, Dr. Forde.
“She made such a positive impact on my professional development, both academically and personally,” says Dixon. “It made me realize how important it is for students to have advisors who actually care about their well-being. It’s one of the reasons I decided to become an adviser myself – because it was a way for me to return the favor.”
She found her opportunity to return to MSU – by way of the Bagley College of Engineering. In this position, she spent time recruiting as well as helping undergraduate and graduate students with scholarships and campus employment, thus preparing her for her current position in the College of Business.
Dixon is responsible for advising more than 400 undergraduate accounting students – helping them with curricula, registration problems and other matters to ensure they are on track to earn their degrees. She works with graduate students, keeping their records and offering guidance alongside their faculty advisers. She also promotes the School of Accountancy to high school and junior college students at recruiting events both on and off campus.
“I really enjoy the one-on-one interaction with students. Getting to know them personally is my greatest joy,” Dixon says. “I like making sure they have the right information and helping provide what they need to graduate.”
She has been instrumental in forming a student organization, the Accounting & Financial Women's Alliance, making Mississippi State the second university in the nation to begin a collegiate chapter. Founded in 1938 as the American Society of Women Accountants, AFWA promotes the professional growth of women in all facets of accounting and finance. It has long provided students with resources like networking, mentoring and access to scholarships.
“I noticed that there seemed to be a lack of organizations for accounting majors to be involved in,” says Dixon. “So I did a little research and landed on the AFWA. I think it might have been destiny because when I contacted the organization, I learned that the person in charge of piloting AFWA’s first student organization was an MSU alumna!” Glenda Fulgham, president of the Jacksonville MSU alumni chapter and a member of the national MSU Alumni Association board, happened to be on campus for a conference. The two connected, and plans for the new chapter took shape.
Dixon also implemented a three-day summer camp on campus for rising high school seniors who have taken the ACT and have an interest in pursuing a degree in accounting. The camp, called ASAP – Accelerating Students into the Accounting Profession – allows 20-30 potentially future MSU students to experience campus life.
“We need to get students thinking about Mississippi State and MSU accounting,” says Dixon. “ASAP is a learning experience that is also a lot of fun.”
Each year, campers are housed in a campus residence hall and get a glimpse of what college is like as a "bulldog" at Mississippi State University!
The campers attend instructional seminars focused on enhancing professional development and success, developing team-building/leadership skills, and gaining a new perspective of the accounting profession. In addition, they will hear from accounting professionals and take a tour of a local firm to obtain a first-hand look at audit, tax, corporate accounting and advisory services. The cost of ASAP Camp is $100, which covers room & board, meals, field trip and workshop supplies.
Dixon has done more to advance the school than many could accomplish in many years, and she does not show any signs of slowing down. What is it that keeps her motivated?
“Working with students here is my personal way of giving back to the university,” Dixon replies. “I want to make a positive impact on the lives of my students, just as I received during my college years.”