Wilson lives abroad in Zambia where she uses her passion for Christian ministry and teaching students to connect with others in meaningful ways.
MacLean Wilson ’21 found Elon University on the College Board website and was instantly hooked. “The three requirements I had for a university is that it would have a quality education program, small class sizes and a marching band,” said Wilson.
Wilson knew that Elon checked all of her boxes, making it the right choice. But she credits the funding that she received from the generosity of donors for making that dream a reality. Wilson received a Presidential Scholarship, a Teaching Fellow Scholarship and a Lettie Pate Whitehead scholarship to attend Elon.
“Not only was it an encouragement to receive these investments in my education, but it significantly cut down on the amount of loans I needed to take out,” said Wilson.
Majoring in elementary education and minoring in early childhood education, Wilson was also very involved on campus. She joined the Fire of the Carolinas marching band, the Elon Pep band, sang in the Elon Gospel Choir, volunteered with the Little Village, participated in the Examining Education Living Learning Community (formerly the Disparities in Access to Education LLC), and tutored and mentored as a college access team member with the Elon Academy.
Wilson also became an ambassador for the School of Education and was able to complete research and study abroad in New Zealand as part of the Teaching Fellows program. But the most transformative student experience for her was with Campus Outreach, a Christian campus ministry group that she continues her work with today.
With her faith a big aspect of her life, Wilson knew she wanted to be a part of a Christian group in college. However, she didn’t know that Campus Outreach existed until her Teaching Fellows mentor invited her to one of the meetings before even knowing that Wilson was hoping to find a similar group at Elon.
Wilson soon became a part of the leadership team for Campus Outreach at Elon. In this role, she took part in planning events, leading Bible studies and encouraging others in their faith.
Come her junior year, Wilson wasn’t fully fulfilled by the traditional classroom setting, so she set out to find something less traditional. The University of Otago, where she studied abroad in New Zealand, also had a Campus Outreach location, and has been a part of the ministry there, she had already experienced what ministry looked like in an international context.
She discovered that Campus Outreach sent people to different countries and she noticed there was a specific need in Zambia for someone to help homeschool the ministry director’s four children in math, science, grammar and writing.
“I didn’t know there was a job that could combine teaching elementary school kids with university ministry. But there it was,” said Wilson.
Wilson entered the two-year program for graduates where she is a part of a team of Zambians and Americans who are connected with Kabwata Baptist Church, a local church in Zambia’s capital, Lusaka. As an extension of the church on the University of Zambia’s campus, the team meets with students one-on-one and they lead Bible studies and help plan and host various events.
“One of my favorite ways to connect with students is to invite them to bake with me,” said Wilson. “Many of them have never had chocolate chip cookies before. They’ve loved learning how to bake them and enjoy the results!”
She says one of the most rewarding aspects of being a part of Campus Outreach, whether at Elon, New Zealand or now in Zambia, has been seeing how people who have little in common can bond together.
“The students I have met here have customs I don’t understand, have gone through challenges I can’t fathom and see the world through a lens I will never fully be able to put on,” said Wilson. “Yet, they are willing to share their heart with me.”
This new experience has brought its share of challenges for Wilson, who says adjusting to the new culture is one of the hardest things she has faced. Besides the outward differences, such as driving on the left side of the road and living within a walled area surrounded by barbed wire, there are differences in cultural values in Zambia that Wilson is learning to adjust to.
“I am a very scheduled person and I like to be able to plan ahead,” said Wilson. However, as a whole, Zambians tend to go with the flow. It is difficult to plan ahead when appointments start an hour later than scheduled and last at least an hour longer than expected.”
Wilson appreciates that Elon puts a heavy focus on action and hands-on learning, not just the hypotheticals. She had innumerable teaching opportunities while at Elon — tutoring high school students, student teaching elementary students in New Zealand, running an enrichment program for 2-year-olds, and teaching fourth graders in her final semester as a student teacher. She also spent a year substitute teaching as she was preparing to go to Zambia.
“There have been many bumps in the road between my first year at Elon and now. But one thing has remained constant: the Lord is good,” said Wilson. “This is a truth I have had to learn time and again and I expect to keep learning.”
Wilson is ten months into her two-year commitment in Zambia, and she hopes to continue being faithful to God wherever life takes her afterward. She hopes to take what she has learned from Elon with her wherever she goes, as she feels that experiential learning is what really sets Elon graduates apart.
“The world doesn’t just need college graduates with knowledge, it needs college graduates with practical experience in using knowledge to change the world,” said Wilson, “this is exactly what students get at Elon.”