Kayla Lovitt’s servant heart shapes her Ole Miss experience
For many, following in a sibling’s footsteps can be daunting. For Kayla Grace Lovitt, of Madison, while her sister’s footsteps may have led her to the University of Mississippi, she has forged a path all her own.
When Kayla’s sister Tavyn (BA 17) came to Oxford in 2013 as a member of the Ole Miss track team, it seemed an unlikely choice coming from a family of longtime LSU supporters. But it started something of a chain reaction that ultimately shaped Kayla’s collegiate decision-making and led her to make Oxford her home for four years.
“I was born in Louisiana and naturally have always been a LSU fan – still am, oops,” Kayla said. “But, when my older sister was looking for colleges to run cross-country and track, Ole Miss was her top choice.
“After visiting her and seeing how much she enjoyed the people in Oxford and at Ole Miss, I decided to go there as well.”
While Tavyn found family on the track, Kayla – majoring in biology with a minor in chemistry – dove into the academics and service of campus life and really found her home in helping others. Not only was she in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, Kayla was a member of Gamma Beta Phi Honor Society and Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society.
She has been on the Chancellor’s List every semester and was recognized as a Who’s Who Among Students honoree.
Kayla joined Chi Omega sorority, where she served as a philanthropy chair for two years, and was active with RebelTHON, serving on its board of directors. She also was drawn to a number of organizations that fed her lifelong goal of becoming a doctor, such as JFC Health Ambassadors, American Medical Student Association, Pre-Med Peer Mentoring and MEDLife.
“Some of my best experiences have come from organizations I have been in,” Kayla said. “Through MedLIFE, I got to go on a medical mission trip to Peru and even visited Machu Picchu on my 20th birthday. Through RebelTHON, I got to meet so many wonderful patients and doctors from Blair E. Batson, many of whom I still have contacts with today.”
Although it is hard for Kayla to narrow down which has been her favorite experience, she has a special affinity for having served as philanthropy chair for Chi Omega and raising money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation as well as Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital in Jackson.
“In my last year as philanthropy chair, we raised well enough money to have a new NICU room in Batson named after our chapter, the Chi Omega Tau NICU room,” she said. “It was a very cool way to see how two things that are very important to me (Chi Omega and Blair E. Batson) were brought together to do something really special.”
Besides her numerous service and community engagement activities, Kayla fully embraced her role as a scholar. She found experiences she never dreamed possible at every turn including through her work on her honor thesis with Kristine Willett, chair of the Department of BioMolecular Sciences in the School of Pharmacy.
Kayla has been testing the effects of developmental THC exposure on gene expression levels in zebrafish, focusing on the effects this has on inflammation and cell senescence, or aging.
Willett first met Kayla several years ago, when they served together on the Honors College Academic Integrity Committee. Then last fall, Kayla asked to join the lab because she had already been researching cannabinoids.
“She jumped right in as an active participant,” Willett said. “She was very motivated and efficient in data acquisition. Our whole lab is impressed with what she has contributed and proud of her work.”
Through this work, Kayla has also been an author of a published research paper.
“This is an opportunity that I am very thankful for, and that I never thought would be within my reach before coming to Ole Miss,” Kayla said.
Kayla’s friends would describe her as adventurous and “just a goofball,” but they also know that she is very responsible, mature and wise. Kayla would agree with all those descriptions and also add dependable. For her, it is important that people know they can count on her when it really counts.
She also strongly believes in striking a balance between maturity and lightheartedness.
As for plans, Kayla is set to attend the School of Medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. For now, she’s leaning toward pediatrics because it provides a natural outlet for her love of kids.
“Helping others is probably my biggest motivation for most things I do,” Kayla said. “I love to serve others, in big or small ways, whether that means cooking a meal for friends, running an errand for a family member or going abroad on a mission trip – I want to do it!”
Even now, as a member of a graduating class that faces the unique distinction of forever being linked to a global pandemic, Kayla remains ever the optimist that there is always something good in every situation.
“I have hope through my faith, in knowing that any situation I’ve been brought to before, God has brought me through it and provided great meaningfulness from it,” Kayla said.
“I have faith that whether it is today, or next week, or 10 years from now, we will be able to see the good that came from this time – such as learning to conserve and limit the resources we use, finding or rediscovering new/old hobbies, slowing down our pace and spending time at home with families.”
By Lisa Stone/University Marketing & Communications