Crafting her own approach

by Jennifer Johnson,

At Willamette, senior Liz Gill found activities that fit who she is and helped define the leader she wants to be.

After a jam-packed four years participating in just about every role Willamette offers — student government, community service, environmental activism, Greek life — Liz Gill ’17 is taking a breather next year: She’s getting her master’s degree at the University of Oxford.

Gill, a politics major with a double minor in economics and environmental science, isn’t one to idle. During her college career at Willamette, she dove headfirst into campus activities that both met her desire for community involvement and complemented her education.

Here’s a snapshot of the jobs and roles she held at Willamette:

  • Intern at the Sustainability Institute, establishing a network of alumni to mentor and connect with students
  • Peer mentor for the Compass Mentor program
  • Leader of and participant in Take a Break trips through the Community Service Learning office
  • Barista at The Bistro
  • Willamette scholarship-funded fellow for environmental advocate Oregon Climate, where she researched sustainability initiatives in higher education and created a guide for organizing youth voter registration drives
  • Co-author of a published work and researched environmental activism with Janet Lorenzen, assistant professor of sociology
  • Council member and recent president of the Associated Students of Willamette University

Gill says this last role most defined her college experience. After she became president, she started the student budget committee, represented students before the Board of Trustees, College Council and University Council, and interviewed and appointed all student representatives to campus committees.

She’s learned how to look at issues holistically and practice true professionalism.

“I ran for the position because I love Willamette, but I also believed it could be a better place,” she says. “I think the biggest way it shaped me as a leader is learning how to take on a large project with many moving pieces and execute and finish it.”

Gill appreciates how Willamette helped her with career preparation and allowed her to craft her own approach. The university provided a community she hadn’t known before, one filled with “nerds” like her who really care about issues.

She says, “Everyone is so involved and wants to make our community better.”

This fall, Gill will approach her next adventure with the same enterprising spirit that defined her time at Willamette. She’ll travel to Europe for the first time to attend Oxford, where she will undertake her “dream program” — a one-year master’s of science degree in nature, society and environmental governance.

A native of Cheney, Washington, Gill has always cared about the environment and outdoors.

“I found the environment is the intersection of a lot of things I care about — I’m very passionate about healthy sustainable communities and see it as something really core to social justice,” she says. “The more I learned about environmental science, the more I felt climate change is going to be the defining issue of our time.”

After she completes her master’s degree, her future is open. She’s considering work as a policy consultant or strategic planner in the nonprofit world.

“I realized when I try and plan, life goes in a different direction. It’s worked out well for me so far,” she says. “I’m going to be open to all experiences.”

This is the first in a series of four profiles of May 2017 graduates.

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