McKayla Cox

McKayla Cox


Nonprofit Leadership Students Build Professional Competencies Through University Engagement

For thousands of students in the Wabash Valley, the Terre Haute Children’s Museum gives the opportunity to learn lessons that may not be found anywhere else. Students learn about the world around them, interacting with their environment in ways they never thought possible.

Indiana State University senior McKayla Cox is no exception.

Cox, a first-generation college student from Clinton, Ind., came to State hoping to pursue a degree in biology. However, after she landed a job as a Federal Work Study employee at the Terre Haute Children’s Museum her freshman year, Cox developed new dreams for her future. “It was a small opportunity that changed my life,” Cox said. “This has really been the basis of my entire future career, and it all started because of Indiana State’s Federal Work Study program and a commitment to community engagement.”

Four years later, Cox is counting down the days until she graduates this spring with a degree in human resource development with a minor in nonprofit leadership. Next year, she will simultaneously pursue a master’s of public affairs in nonprofit management and a master’s of arts in philanthropic studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

Cox has worked her way from the bottom to the top during her time at State. She now serves as a museum manager for the Terre Haute Children’s Museum. In this role, she initiated a unique opportunity for other students studying nonprofit leadership at State: to apply the skills they learn in class at the Terre Haute Children’s Museum.

Partnering with Nathan Schaumleffel and his classes, Cox coordinated the Nova Award Workshop, a series of events designed to teach local Boy Scouts about science, technology, engineering and math. The STEM Nova Award was developed by the Boy Scouts of America to encourage young members to explore their scientific curiosities alongside an adult mentor.

Hosted by Terre Haute Children’s Museum, the Nova Award workshops centered on the exploration of outer space. Boy Scouts were given the opportunity to construct and race their own pinewood rocket and to video-call an astronaut who spent time on the International Space Station.

Cox facilitated the planning and communication, acting as an intermediary between Indiana State, the Terre Haute Children’s Museum and the Boy Scouts of America. “I went to a district roundtable for the Wabash Valley District of Boy Scouts of America,” Cox said. “I presented and talked to Cub Scout leaders about the workshops.”

Cox also coordinated volunteer efforts within Schaumleffel’s classes. Using the software system Volgistics, Cox recruited, scheduled, and trained student volunteers. The large group of volunteers included sophomore Lexie Akers and junior Kyra Hull, whose hard work in the classroom gave them the skills necessary to lead Cub Scout groups during the program.

Schaumleffel thinks highly of Cox and all that she has accomplished, including the Nova Award Workshops. “She’s taken advantage of every opportunity given to her,” he said.

Cox, however, attributes much of her success to Schaumleffel. “I chose Indiana State University because of the commitment to community engagement and dedicated faculty,” she said. “Dr. Schaumleffel’s been an inspiration to me. He’s always gone the extra mile.”

Cox and Schaumleffel have built a strong relationship through his roles as a professor, academic advisor and faculty advisor to the Nonprofit Leadership Student Association. Cox has immersed herself within the Nonprofit Leadership Student Association, serving as the organization’s president this year. She was also competitively selected to represent Indiana State as a Nonprofit Leadership Alliance Student Ambassador, a national committee that works to plan the 2019 Alliance Management Institute. She is the first Sycamore to ever receive that honor.

Her experiences at State, both inside and outside of the classroom, have allowed her to gain the confidence and skills she needs to succeed in her future career. “I would not be the person I am today without having the experiences that were available to me at Indiana State,” she said. “Capitalizing on these opportunities has been instrumental in my personal and professional development.”

Cox’s ambitious attitude has served her well. She was recently named the 2018-2019 Outstanding Nonprofit Leadership Student by the department of kinesiology, recreation, and sport. The award is well-deserved, but Cox believes it would not have been possible without her personal cheerleaders. “I have an amazing family that is extremely supportive,” she said. “The entire museum team -the staff, the board, and the volunteers- are all one big family of mine, too. I want to thank my friends, family, and the Terre Haute Children’s Museum for their support.”

Cox has spent her collegiate career invested in community engagement, and she intends to continue the cycle of giving back in her professional life. “Indiana State means endless impact to me,” she said. “My BLUE is to continually impact the lives of others, just like Indiana State has impacted mine.”