Olivia Given (B.A., 2016)
What connections do you see between WGST at WVU and your current work?
- For my current work while I'm in grad school, I work at a rape and domestic violence
shelter as a crisis intervention advocate as well as at Planned Parenthood as
their sex education organizer. I always try to immerse my work choices in feminist
and inclusive ways, whether it be in how I interact with my clients or recruiting
volunteers for an event that I organize. I believe that by having a WGST degree
and complementing that with places of work that are passionate about the same
goals as me, it becomes part of my core values for me to enjoy my work and the
impact that it can make.
How did our program prepare you to do what you're doing? or what you’d hope to do?
- This program has helped me in more ways then I could have even imagined, by having
my professors and all the faculty consistently encouraged me to intertwine a
grass roots mindset into every volunteer position, internship, student organization,
and into my professional work. I could visualize the amount of possibilities
degree because I was introduced to feminist work from the very beginning of my
How did your experience at WVU help you find your passion?
- I was constantly encouraged to find what I was passionate about throughout
my time at WVU and align those passions with my career choices. My professors
and mentor, Nina Riivald, as well as our Department Head, Dr. Jennifer Orlikoff,
helped me find career paths and internships that let me explore my interests
What are your long-term plans?
- My long-term goals after graduating from UofL are to continue my work in the non-profit
world, whether that is in Kentucky or back in West Virginia. I also plan on becoming
a college professor in a WGST department, I want to help students find that spark
for social justice like I did while in my WGST courses.
What would you recommend to current majors for post-graduation life and work?
- My biggest advice to majors and even minors about post-graduation life and work
is to be proactive, for example, when I was accepted into grad school at Louisville,
KY I knew that I wanted to continue my work with rape and domestic violence survivors
so I contacted shelters in the area so that I could have a job set up before
arriving for school in the fall. Majors and minors should also know that their
professors and mentors are there to help, ask them about their path and how it
led them to where they are now. There are people to help you along the way, do
not be afraid to reach out to them.
What experience, academic or otherwise, has had the most impact on you?
- I would say my overall experience of being a WGST student has been the most impactful,
I really believe that if I had not had a background in WGST, I would not have
been given as many opportunities prior c
oming to grad school.
How will an education from WVU benefit you in 10 years and where do you see yourself?
- My education is and will continue to benefit me tremendously, I cannot imagine
another degree or another school I could have attended that would have given
me more tools and resources equipped to entering the work force as well as continuing
Where do you see this program in 3 years?
- In all honesty, I hope to be working within the department in the next 3-5 years.
I believe that this department is a vital piece of WVU and without it I would
not be in the position that I currently am.
Describe the work you do (Job Title, description, etc.)
- As well as being a full time graduate student, I am a Crisis Intervention
Advocate at a rape and domestic violence shelter and the sex education organizer
at Planned Parenthood. I am also a teaching assistant for an undergraduate WGST
What are you passionate about in your work?
- I am passionate about everything within my work, from working with my clients to
organizing events. I think that if I did not feel passionate about the work I
do and the people I work with that I could continue to work there.
How has your Eberly College/ WGST Department experience helped shape your success?
- Having amazing professors and a mentor who was with me throughout my entire career
at WVU was the most help I ever received in shaping my success, I also think
by having the WGST curriculum very much centered around the individual student’s
success, I was able to cater my degree to reflect the work that I wanted to do
when I left WVU.
How are you a game changer? Or, how are you making a positive impact in the world?
- I don’t know if I would refer to myself as a game changer, but I think I am making
a positive impact on the world by not only working with and empowering survivors
of rape and domestic violence, but also empowering young people to see their
ability to create change; whether that be on the local, state, or nationwide
level. Our generation is a pivotal time where we are riding the edge of being
policy makers and changers and feeling like we have no dog in these fights when
the change and laws put into place will affect us for years to come.
What is the most interesting thing that’s happened to you since graduating?
- I suppose the most interesting thing that has happened to me since graduating would
be just starting my master’s program, I always wanted to continue my education,
but I never really believed in myself enough that I would get into a good program
and be succeeding at it. Being able to continue my education and further my career
is has been incredibly rewarding and I cannot wait to see what happens next.
Your favorite WVU memory?
- My favorite WVU memory was when I was awarded outstanding senior from the WGST
department last spring, being recognized as something positive and important
to the place that helped shape who I am as a person was so amazing and special
How do you support and participate in the department of Women and Gender Studies?
- I continue to keep in contact with current students in the department as well as
faculty and staff. My mentor, Nina Riivald, and I are collaborating on working
with our alumni and making connections with other departments throughout the
What advice would you give a student interested in pursuing a career in Women
and Gender Studies?