Olivia Williams

Bachelor of Science, Cognitive Neuroscience, College of Arts and Sciences, Class of 2020

In all of her work, Olivia Williams attempts to incorporate a margins-to-center approach and ensure that positive, action-oriented dialogue and change is created. She has expressed this most deeply through her numerous leadership positions at Washington University. Olivia is driven by the desire to ensure that the university is a place where students of all backgrounds are supported and that WashU serves as a regional change-maker with regard to equity and building stronger, deeper connections with the local community.

During her time at WashU, Olivia has served in a variety of roles on campus. She led organizations like Student Union and GlobeMed, while also participating in research with Professor Darrell Hudson on how socioeconomic position and social context of Black residents in the city affect mental and physical health. What stands out beyond her leadership roles, however, is her ability to create change. As the Speaker of SU Senate, she catalyzed the creation of the Opportunity Fund, a racial bias task force, and the SU Action Plan to combat racial bias. Olivia is also creating the SafeSpot, a co-localized trauma-informed wellness center focused on ensuring marginalized students receive coordinated and integrated care. Off-campus, Olivia volunteers at Kingdom House and St. Louis Children’s Hospital and has built connections with communities around the city in an effort to better understand how WashU can help reduce the opportunity gap in the region. Above all, Olivia prioritizes marginalized community voices and fights to ensure that historically unheard voices are at the forefront of her work.

As nominator and peer Anand Chukka writes, “While a lot of her engagements are WashU-focused, the impetus for why she chose these modes of engagement is to create and increase solidarity between WashU and St. Louis and decrease the opportunity gap between our school and neighboring communities. Olivia’s work is important because it will outlast her, creating long-term infrastructural change to WashU and its relationship with St. Louis.” Olivia brings passion and joy to all of those who work with her, and her legacy as a campus change-maker will remain a cornerstone of this campus for years to come.