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RMU: Counseling student to graduate from university her father founded

By Jody Genessy - Special to the Daily Herald | Mar 23, 2024

Courtesy photo

Kindee Dixon, daughter of Dr. Richard P. Nielsen, will graduate this summer from Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions, a school her father co-founded.

When Kindee Dixon walks across the stage and receives a master’s degree in counseling at the Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions graduation this summer, one of the university’s co-founders might be the proudest person there.

That man, Dr. Richard P. Nielsen, isn’t only associated with her through the health care institution — he’s also her dad.

“Kindee is an amazing human,” said Nielsen, who served as RMU’s president and CEO from 1998 to 2022. “Her persona is electrifying, and her excitement for life penetrates hearts. She will be an amazing caregiver to those in need of mental health support.”

The feelings of pride are mutual. Dixon was the first person with whom her dad shared his vision for RMU almost 30 years ago, so she is aware of the hard work required to build a university from a lofty idea.

“It’s been so inspiring for me because he followed through on a dream,” she said. “It didn’t matter what it took to get there, he wasn’t going to quit.”

Dixon has that same spirit in her DNA.

After serving a mission in Uruguay for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the late 1990s, Dixon got a job answering the only phone at RMU, which then offered just one degree: a doctorate in physical therapy. As RMU expanded, she enrolled and earned a master’s degree in health science in 2006. Dixon ran a media company, making billboards and TV commercials for a nonprofit organization, and didn’t use that degree in her career.

Eventually, Dixon started doing life coaching on the side. During the pandemic, she felt drawn to continue down the path of helping to heal others and herself from trauma. In the process, she stepped aside from her job of 17 years.

As RMU prepared to begin a counseling program, Nielsen suggested she return and earn a second master’s degree, this time in something she’d put into practice. She applied for the Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program — not telling anybody she was the president’s daughter to avoid potential preferential treatment — and began with the first counseling cohort in January 2022.

Since then, Dixon has learned evidence-based skills through mostly online courses, which allows her to fit schooling into her busy schedule. She gained hands-on experience while being trained under mentors at RMU’s Counseling Clinic in Provo and from Jungian Advanced Motor Processing therapy experts. After graduation, she’ll continue working at Balanced Well Beings in Draper, where she also practices foot zoning.

“I love it. It’s hard work for me, especially because it’s so heavy content-wise,” she said. “But I’m seeing such huge shifts … getting people through their trauma back to their actual self. It’s so rewarding.”

She hopes her kids, ages 9, 13 and 15, will be inspired to pursue big goals after learning about the accomplishments of their “Pops” and from seeing how she earned a second master’s degree as a 50-year-old. Going back to school has helped her to be a better mom and person, Dixon said. Her awareness of others has increased and she tries to listen more than lecture when in “mom mode.”

“I feel like it’s changed me as a human,” Dixon said. “For me, it’s been a blessing just to recognize how the skills that I’m learning in the counseling program actually translate into every aspect of my life. That’s been the bonus takeaway that I wasn’t expecting.”

Dixon and her dad have similar hearts for adventure and service.

They’ve traveled to 40 countries, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Sinai, traversed the narrows at Petra, swum in the Red Sea, zip-lined through the Costa Rican jungles and run 15 half-marathons.

They’ve also built about 25 primary and secondary schools throughout Kenya and Malawi. She is vice president of the Warm Hearts Foundation, which has drilled 400 clean-water wells in Africa.

Dixon fell in love with humanitarian work when she went to Kenya with her dad as a 15-year-old. It saddened her to learn that free education didn’t exist in villages. She was touched by gracious Kenyans, who lived simple, gratitude-filled lives despite poverty conditions. One woman enthusiastically gave the teenager a tour of her home, which was nothing like she’d seen in her Spanish Fork upbringing. The small mud hut had a dirt floor and two bedrooms, one room for the family of eight to sleep in and the other for their cows so they wouldn’t get stolen at night.

It was particularly humbling for Dixon when her hands were washed as an act of kindness by a woman who carried a water bucket on her head for miles.

“I lost it,” she said. “They saw that I was uncomfortable in this moment with them but wanted me to feel at home and sacrificed their drinking water to wash my hands. There was nothing in my life that I could have (experienced) to feel more indebted.”

Dixon pledged that she would come back and help, which she continues to do 35 years later.

She organized her first humanitarian trip to Kenya as her senior service project at Southern Virginia University. She and her college friends collected 60 boxes of clothing, toys, soccer balls and school supplies. Almost miraculously, they found out about a tiny tin-shack school with 75 young students and made a delivery the day before city officials planned on closing it for a lack of funding and supplies. It saved the small school.

“That’s my super hobby is helping build schools in Kenya and Malawi,” she said. “Helping people has always been in my blood.”

Whether in Africa or America, it’s rewarding for Dixon to lift others through counseling work and compassionate acts.

“Person to person is where I really find the most joy in helping. I don’t know what is more important than that,” she said. “It’s the thing that’s calling to me the most right now, so I decided to take the leap and jump back into school — and, of course, it’s RMU.”

Jody Genessy is a senior content writer with University Marketing and Communications at RMU.


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