How I’m helping open up the world to students at my alma mater
I’m celebrating a little extra this Thanksgiving by giving back to a place that’s given so much to me. If you know me, you know that my love for my alma mater, LSU, runs deep. It’s a place that changed my life by showing me a world of possibilities. That’s why I’m so excited to share with you that I’m now helping LSU students realize their potential in the same way that I did. The Terri Broussard Williams Experiential Learning Fund will enable students at LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communications to embark on learning experiences like covering the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. Today I want to tell you the story behind my gift — and hopefully inspire you to make an impact at your own alma mater or other organization you care about.
Making a Meaningful Gift
Like I said, I bleed purple and gold. I earned my bachelor’s in mass communication at LSU. And I had plenty of formative experiences there, like moving past my disappointment after losing a student government election to join a special counsel and chip away at the misperception that Black students didn’t get involved on campus
When I started my blog and wrote my book, I made a commitment that one day I would use this money to do good in the world. And giving to LSU was an obvious choice for how I could do that good. I started thinking about what a major gift to LSU would look like and how I could make it really meaningful and aligned with my values.
My vision for the gift took shape during a conversation with my mom. She has always liked to point out that I learned how to “party” at LSU. (Hey, in my defense, I never did anything crazy — and I even graduated early!) But she also acknowledged that I had learned leadership skills there, as well as how to say “yes” to travel opportunities and to not be afraid of the unknown. That was my “aha” moment.
Giving Students the World
I reached out to LSU to talk about my gift. When I did, I learned about a #Firestarter after my own heart who was doing big things at the university. Dr. Kim Bissell became dean of the Manship School in summer 2023. Her story deeply resonates with me. Like me, Dean Bissell used to work in journalism. And, also like me, she left that field to forge a new career path that more closely aligned with what she values. She believes in something you’ve probably heard me say as well: When there’s not a place at the table for you, make your own. And then make space for others who have been left out.
One of the cool things going on at Manship under Dean Bissell’s leadership is a new study abroad program called The Olympics Project. Manship students can apply for a chance to travel to France and get real-world experience covering the Paris Olympics. (There’ll be plenty of time to soak up the culture, too.)
My eyes lit up when I heard about this program. While I’m so grateful that my family and I got to see the U.S. in our trusty RV as I grew up, I never traveled internationally when I was in college. In fact, the most excitement I had in journalism school was leaving class early to help with hurricane coverage in Lafayette!
As an adult, I’ve made it a point to accept fellowships that have taken me abroad. And I’ve embraced the philosophy of being a student of the world. I understood from my own experiences how powerful The Olympics Project would be for Manship students. I knew that studying abroad would deepen their professional skills, expand their worldview and, hopefully, spark their own interest in being #Firestarters.
That’s why I became the first donor to the fund that now carries my name. And I’ve made a five-year commitment to supporting experiential learning programs like The Olympics Project. “I know so many students would love the opportunity to study abroad, but do not have the financial resources to do so,” Dean Bissell says. “I want to make sure the Manship School is one that fills the financial gap of students who want to be able to participate in transformative experiences that will truly change their lives.”
Manship is hoping that most of the participants in the Olympics Project will be students who have never been abroad before. “I have always felt study abroad should be something that is accessible to all students, and it is one of the reasons I am so focused on finding the means to help all of our students have these opportunities,” she says.
Dean Bissell led 12 study abroad programs in her previous role at the University of Alabama. So she has seen firsthand how such programs benefit students. They “allow students to take the knowledge and skills they are acquiring through their classroom experiences and apply it in a truly real-world context,” she says. “Study abroad programs also push students outside of their comfort zone — they are in a country where the language, customs, food, people and transportation are very different from what they know. Add that to having to gather content to create or produce a story or a broadcast. This combination pushes them, but it pushes them in a meaningful way. They learn a lot about themselves and they learn, often, they can do things they never thought possible.”
You Can Do This, Too!
We often think that only people like Oprah Winfrey or Bill Gates start scholarships or have funds named after them. But I’m here to tell you that doing so is more accessible than you might think. If, like me, you want to give back to your college or university, a great first step is contacting the development office. (If you’re an LSU alum, connect with Grace Fiorenza Hermes to learn about giving opportunities there: email@example.com.)
You may discover that you can donate to an existing fund or scholarship that supports what you’re passionate about. If not, the development staff can work with you to create one.
To study up on the options you can pursue, here are a few resources I like:
And if you’d like to support LSU Manship’s Olympics Project and future experiential learning programs, just go to www.lsu.edu. Thank you – and lots of young Tigers do, too! Geaux Tigers!
I also want to give a special shout out to Manship Professor Sadie Wilks who takes journalism students to Austin, Texas each year. These #firestarters come for South by Southwest and I love spending time with them. I also know how this visit shapes many of their careers, and I even found some Movement Maker interns during our time together. We Tigers are fierce for the future here, and abroad!
More Fuel for #Firestarters
Looking for more inspo? Let’s keep the Louisiana theme going!
- Laurel Hess of Lafayette (my hometown!) founded a startup that changes lives through laundry.
- Angie Provost (who happens to be my cousin) works to uphold the legacy of Black farmers.
- My parents and grandparents are the Louisiana #Firestarters who set the example I strive to follow today.
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