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Careers in Motion: Olivia Sisson ’17 Humanities in New York

“The trip showed me that there are so many talented and interesting alumni who are working in fantastic companies and industries that might have nothing to do with what they studied at W&L.”

Olivia_Sisson_Headshot-600x400 Careers in Motion: Olivia Sisson '17Meet Olivia Sisson, a senior who has wanted to be an artist since she was little – but didn’t know how – as she talks about her experience on the Humanities Career Trip to New York.

When you heard the words “humanities career trip,” what did you think?

I heard about the career trip through a Career Services email that had information about the trip. I ultimately decided to go because I knew it would be a great chance to meet some cool alumni and learn about different career paths that I hadn’t considered before. Career Services is incredibly helpful and a fantastic resource so I was very confident that the trip would be well worth my time.

Have you always been interested in art?

When I was little, I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. I still want to be an artist, but also to work in the design world or just find a way to use my creativity in a business setting.

So you knew you wanted to pursue an artist’s life when you entered college?

When I started college, I wasn’t totally sure what I wanted to do for a career, but I was fairly certain that things like math and business didn’t fit my skill set very well. I knew I loved art and started taking classes, but wasn’t really sure what careers I could make out of an undergraduate studio art degree.

I would say my goal to keep developing my creative skill set is one I’m still achieving and is something I hope that I will be working on for a very long time.

Now I have a much better idea of how many different industries and jobs utilize the kind of creative thinking and analytical problem solving that I really enjoy using in my academic studies.

Is that because of your professors?

My advisors, Leigh Ann Beavers in the art department and Lisa Greer in the geology department, have both really encouraged me to work hard and challenge myself in both departments. Both professors have encouraged me to be more curious and ask more questions.

wluCareerTrips-in-NewYork-600x400 Careers in Motion: Olivia Sisson '17#wluCareerTrips’ great view in New York

Did the career trip help with that also? Have you learned new things about careers in arts?

The trip showed me that there are so many talented and interesting alumni who are working in fantastic companies and industries that might have nothing to do with what they studied at W&L.

This really encouraged me to start reaching out to as many alumni as possible in order to just learn more about these different industries. It showed me that I can use my majors in so many more ways than I thought possible.

Now my goal is to learn as much as I can about some of these areas and figure out how I can apply my skill set to them.

Where did you go on this trip? Was it mostly museums and galleries?

We visited nine different companies while on the trip. We visited the Michael J. Fox Foundation, One Kings Lane, American Red Cross, Blackrock, Hearst Publishing, Fusion Media, Marcus and Millichap, Grey Advertising, and AT Kearney. We really got a great sampling of different industries, from publishing to home decor, wealth management to corporate real estate, non-profits to media companies, and advertising as well.

wluCareerTrips-in-NewYork-Parkinson-600x400 Careers in Motion: Olivia Sisson '17#wluCareerTrips visiting The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson Research

Wow! I didn’t realize there were so many businesses on the trip. Which one was your favorite?

I really enjoyed visiting One Kings Lane. They have a huge creative team that creates 90 percent of their website content — like photography work — in-house. It was really interesting to see their studio space, where all of this content production takes place.

When meeting with these companies, did you receive any advice that you think was particularly helpful for someone pursuing art as a career?

Jeff Hamill, a W&L alumni at Hearst Corporations, highly recommended starting to create our own content now if we are considering getting into the media/publishing world. I think this is a really great piece of advice for anyone in college who is considering getting into any type of media-related industry.

So many companies need social media marketing campaigns and young people with experience to write them. I started my own website this summer and, after getting this advice, I started putting more work into my site and realized continuing to create my own content is really great practice for a lot of entry-level positions.

What about other advice that keeps you going? Do you have any kind of mantra?

I love Napoleon Dynamite. I think he has a great outlook: “Out to prove he’s got nothing to prove.”

You’re a senior now. If you could go back in time and give some advice to little freshman Olivia, what would you tell her?

I was nervous when I declared my art and geology major as most of my friends were declaring business or economics. I appreciate these majors, but just didn’t find that I was very interested in them. I had no idea what kind of jobs (or if I’d be able to get a job) with geology and art but in retrospect I’m very happy that I followed what I was truly interested in. This made all of my coursework engaging and rewarding, and I know now that I can use these skills in a myriad of ways that I didn’t think possible before.

It sounds like you got a lot out of this trip. Would you recommend it to other art students, or students in general?

I would definitely recommend the career trip to other students, especially if they are not sure what they want to do after graduation or even if they are just interested in checking out New York City and getting a better feel for what it’s like to work and live there.

I didn’t realize how valuable it would be to actually visit companies and be able to see what their working environments are like. I feel like I learned so much about industries that I wasn’t very familiar with before and got to meet some incredible alumni. It was an overall fantastic experience.

So here’s the big question: What’s next for you?

I just accepted a fellowship with Venture for America (VFA). I’m really excited to be joining the VFA community. Venture For America is all about helping recent graduates become entrepreneurs and get involved with venture capitalism in emerging American cities. The VFA fellowship allows participants to become immersed in the start-up world and figure out firsthand how to make a difference in their communities through entrepreneurship. I was able to learn a lot about the VFA experience from recent W&L alumni who are a part of VFA. All of them were so helpful in the application process. Training camp starts in June, and I’m excited to start exploring the different VFA partner companies and cities.

Are you interested in finding a career or internship? Are you wondering how to start working towards your dream job? The Career Development Office wants to help! Check out their website and make an appointment today!

A little more about Olivia

Great Falls, Virginia

Studio Art, Geology

Extracurricular involvement: Women’s varsity lacrosse, 24, Kappa Delta, Students Arts League

Why did you choose your major?
I decided to be an art major because I really enjoy working with visual imagery. Both my parents are very creative, so art is something that’s always been a part of my life. I didn’t know much about geology until I took the intro course my sophomore year with the intention of fulfilling my lab FDR. The course seemed like a natural fit for me since I love hiking and spent all my childhood summers in one of my favorite places, the Blue Ridge. I quickly became super interested in the course content and knew that I wanted to keep exploring geology further.

What professor has inspired you?
All of my art professors have inspired me to be bold and take chances. I’m really grateful for that, especially because I wasn’t sure if I could handle being a double major and didn’t know if I was good enough to be an art major. It’s been a very rewarding path so far, and I’m excited to see where it takes me.

What’s your personal motto?
Make stuff if you are stressed.

What’s your favorite song right now?
“Ocean,” John Butler Trio Live at Red Rocks

Best place to eat in Lexington? What do you order?
I love the baked brie from Southern Inn

What do you wish you’d known before you came to campus?
Make time to enjoy and explore Lexington and Rockbridge as soon as you get to school. There are so many hikes and sights to see and you don’t want to miss any of them.

Post-graduation plans:
I’m working on it! Hopefully, I will find something in the art world. I’m looking into museum and gallery jobs right now. I’m also considering going back to school to get my master of fine arts.

Favorite W&L memory:
Any time spent tubing the Maury, walking the Chessie, or sitting on the Colonnade.

Favorite class:
Junior seminar for studio art

Favorite W&L event:
I love Fancy Dress!

Favorite campus landmark:
The gazebo on back campus, especially when all the cows are out.

What’s your passion?:
I love art and backpacking. The lacrosse team is also something I’m very passionate about.

What’s something people wouldn’t guess about you?
I went abroad to New Zealand and had blue hair.

Why did you choose W&L?
I chose W&L because I visited campus when I was a freshman in high school for a lacrosse tournament and was instantly drawn to the historic and picturesque campus and town. I felt totally at home in the Blue Ridge Valley and felt like the university offered so many unique opportunities academically and extracurricularly.