Olivia Given

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 with this degree because I was introduced to feminist work from the very beginning of my WGST department. 

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 and passions. 

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 to coming 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 my education. 

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 course. 

  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 to me. 

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 University.

What advice would you give a student interested in pursuing a career in Women and Gender Studies?

  • My advice to a student interested in a career in WGST would be to go after everything; every opportunity, courses, internship, job, whatever it is, just try it. You will never know what really lights a fire within you if you do not take a chance on every opportunity that is thrown your way. 

  •                                                                                                                                       November 2016