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"At Transylvania it was easy for me to apply my imagination to what I wanted to do—create and mold my own major. This helped me fulfill what I really wanted to do, what my passions were."

When Olivia Oakley came to Transylvania University from London, Ky., she had no idea what she might do or become. “At 18, I knew I would go to college, but I didn’t really know what a liberal arts education was or how different it would be. I visited the campus and loved it, the employees and the environment.”

She also realized that the city of Lexington wasn’t too large for someone from a small town. “Once you’re here, you understand how close the community is and how small it really feels, even though it’s a city.”  And she was thrilled to discover a huge arts community.

Olivia Oakley

As a student at Transylvania, she quickly realized that it is “so much more than education. It’s about the experiences and learning about people, being able to understand and communicate with people in and outside of the Lexington community. It allows you to excel in your own passions and venture off into what your interests are.

“The liberal arts are challenging,” she adds, “but in a good way. It’s much more organic here. You learn in a way that helps you come to your own understanding.”

Oakley quickly identified what she loves in her first semester. She took a class with Professor Melissa McEuen and “fell in love with history.” The more she learned, the more specific her direction became. Her interest in women’s history began to merge with her desire to work on behalf of women and children. A vocation began to form. Instead of wanting to be a historian or to teach history, Oakley realized she wanted to apply her knowledge of history and gender studies to work in the nonprofit sector.

With the help of her advisors she created her own major to accommodate this direction, American studies with components of U.S. history, women’s studies and religion. “It has helped me to connect to other people, understand society and open my sociological imagination,” she explains.

Oakley extols her advisors and professors who guided her on this track. “They are incredible. They helped me so much. They put it in my hands and helped me fulfill what I really wanted to do. I am ever grateful to them and the very close relationships I’ve had with them.

“Transy has a unique way of making you feel special and that your interests and experiences are important.”

Throughout her academic journey, she added layers of valuable experiences, developing strong skills for the modern-day workplace. She was an August term scholar, an academic honor that is also a leadership position. She was a coordinator for Transylvania’s College for Living, a program led by students to give adults with disabilities a taste of the college experience. She interned for Care House and served as a coordinator for VOICE.

“It’s been really inspiring,” she says. “These are experiences that have definitely changed me for the good.  I’m more well-rounded and experienced at working with others. Transylvania helped me grow into the person—the adult—that I am.”

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