From singing for an acapella group called Green Leafs to succeeding academically, Olivia Williamson, senior at Washington University at St. Louis, is a force to be reckoned with. She brings a fiery passion to everything, especially Mx. WashU.
The organization helps bring in money for local charity, City Faces, by conducting a talent show. Through philanthropic endeavors, Williamson plans to bring what she has learned through Mx. WashU into her future career in education.
Ana Greening: Out of all the other organizations, why were you attracted to Mx. WashU?
Olivia Williamson: Throughout high school, I loved finding fun and creative ways to get people engaged with philanthropy. Whether that was making Facebook events, going door to door during classes or creating fundraising competitions between grades.
I loved getting people excited about helping others. With Mx. WashU, I had that chance to be creative and to teach others about the great work City Faces does for students in the community.
AG: Going back to your sophomore year, did you ever think you would to win Mx. WashU?
OW: Honestly, there was a small part in the back of my brain that thought “maybe!” I never said it out loud because winning wasn’t really my goal. It was more so to meet other people and help raise money for a great cause.
Additionally, in the past, it had usually been a senior who won – the seniors my candidate year were super engaged and did an amazing job fundraising, so for good reason, I thought it would be one of them. Even two years later, I’m still surprised and grateful that the judges voted for me.
AG: You have been involved for a while, so how do you think being a part of Mx. WashU changed your life or outlook?
OW: In terms of outlook, I think it has made me understand that there are so many different ways to get involved with causes that are important to you. I’m an education major, but our executive board spans all kinds of majors such as biology, marketing, communication design and more.
Working with kids or educational inequality is not everyone’s life goal, but we can still find ways to support groups like City Faces who do that work. No matter how busy life gets, there is still time to support others in your life, however that looks to you.
AG: What are some challenges about being co-president that you didn’t foresee?
OW: Scheduling meetings with a large group of college students is not very easy, even with things like Doodle or Whenisgood [which are common scheduling tools]. People are involved in a lot of other activities, and we have to do our best to find a time that works for everyone because you don’t want people missing class or missing other things that are important to them.
Additionally, getting people to understand and get behind the mission of Mx. WashU is challenging. As a smaller student group and a group that is not featured on multiple campuses the way a Relay for Life or Dance Marathon is, it poses an extra challenge to get people involved — thankfully, we have a great exec board and candidates who do amazing work to harness their networks and get people engaged.
AG: Kind of spinning off of scheduling, how are you able to balance Mx. WashU and all your other responsibilities?
OW: It can be tough sometimes, but time management has definitely been crucial. If I know I have a late meeting, I make sure to pack dinner the night before so that I’m not spending a ton of time waiting in line for food.
Delegating is also very important because it’s impossible to do anything by yourself. Mx. WashU has a great exec board with people who put in time each week to plan benefit nights, solicit donations and much more.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my fantastic co-president, Kristen. She is one of the busiest people I know, but she never flakes out on the commitments she makes and is so incredibly dedicated. I basically cannot function without her.
AG: How do you think being a part of Mx. WashU will help you in your future career?
OW: I think it’s taught me a lot of practical skills like time management, teamwork, delegation and other skills of that nature. I will be teaching next year, and I’m definitely nervous, but Mx. WashU has taught me a lot about rolling with the punches and making the best of any situation.
Not every event we plan goes perfectly, but we have a greater mission in mind and people who count on us, so we figure out what went wrong and keep it moving. It’s the same in a classroom.
You can try to plan every single second of your lesson, but inevitably something will change. That doesn’t mean you stop teaching, you just take a deep breath and keep going.
AG: Considering the fact you have won, what are some tips you would give to someone who is thinking about competing in Mx. WashU?
OW: Take a deep breath. I know it’s overwhelming, but the work you’re doing is so important and so valuable. Try to do one thing every week to stay engaged with the cause whether that is visiting the studio, emailing your fundraising link or planning something with other candidates.
You don’t have to do something extravagant or expensive to see a result; it’s all about the little things. And lastly, have fun! I know that sounds super corny, but you’re probably never going to do something like this ever again. It’s a very unique experience and it’s going to be one of your favorite memories of college, so take it all in.
AG: Mx. WashU is such an inventive organization in the way it emphasizes the power of fundraising. Do you know of other universities that do a similar cause?
OW: Some chapters of Zeta Tau Alpha sorority do a “Big Man on Campus” event to benefit breast cancer research. Some of my friends have posted online about their schools taking part in it; it always looks like it goes really well and that people enjoy it.
I’m sure there are other universities who do similar pageants or talent shows. They can be successful if the people supporting it are dedicated to the cause.
For universities who want to get started, I would say do it. Hosting pageants brings so many people together, gets people excited about showcasing their talent and supporting a cause, and the competition aspect is a surefire way to get people involved.
AG: After graduation, do you plan to still be involved with City Faces?
OW: I plan to continue to donate each year. I have visited the art studio they work in and met some of their students, and I can confirm that every single cent they receive goes directly to creating experiences and opportunities for the kids.
AG: As you are about to step down and move into the workforce, what are your hopes for Mx. WashU in the future?
OW: I hope that it continues to expand and that their fundraising goes up every year. I think that’s everyone’s goal.
I also hope that it will become more popular on campus and that people will have a clear idea of what City Faces does so that when someone says “I’m on the Mx. WashU executive board,” people know exactly what they’re a part of.