FOSSI | Keeping up with 2022 FOSSI Scholar Olivia Downey

Keeping up with 2022 FOSSI Scholar Olivia Downey

2022 FOSSI Scholar, Olivia Downey, presented her work at the Undergraduate Poster Session at the ACS Conference held in New Orleans, March 17-20, 2024.
2022 FOSSI Scholar, Olivia Downey, presented her work at the Undergraduate Poster Session at the ACS Conference held in New Orleans, March 17-20, 2024.
April 19, 2024

FOSSI: Could you share a few highlights about your first few semesters at Xavier University of Louisiana? Has anything surprised you about college life so far?

As a first gen student, I have had many highlights and surprises as I embarked on my college journey. I was housed on campus during my first year at Xavier. This launched me down the path of becoming active on campus, attending events on the yard, and making friends along the way. While being away from home can be scary and uncomfortable, Xavier made me feel at home and welcomed me with open arms. Clubs and amenities on campus always gave me a reason to take a break form the books when needed, and explore the Xavier community.

One thing that has surprised me about college life so far is the fact that embracing discomfort is truly necessary in order to thrive and grow. As a student, I had no trouble adjusting to the curriculum and the educational demands of college, however, I was not prepared for the number of personal demands and sacrifices that this journey requires. Learning to be uncomfortable, adjust and evaluate every step of the way, independently, was a true task to tackle. 

FOSSI: How has the FOSSI Scholarship impacted your experience at Xavier University of Louisiana?

Obtaining the FOSSI Scholarship has impacted my experiences far beyond financial support. As a FOSSI scholar, the two biggest factors that have impacted my experience is my sponsor, Tanya Foreman, and the webinar series of the program. My mentor/mentee relationship with my sponsor has helped me make personal as well as professional developments and strides, from resume reviewing to applying to internships.

FOSSI’s webinars also have impacted my journey heavily, as the webinars range from money management to mental health. I enjoy the fact that the webinars are not always based on educational skills and advancements. They also focus on life skills and things that may be overlooked in traditional programs. I especially appreciate the fact that my sponsor and other participants in the webinars are mostly Black men and women in the positions that I aspire to be in. It is refreshing to talk and network with people of similar backgrounds who may share some of my life experiences. 

FOSSI: How are your studies going – what are the biggest challenges and what do you like most?

So far my studies in college have been hard work, but also very enjoyable. As a Chemistry (A.C.S) major and a math minor, I find my studies to be an interesting challenge and I often challenge myself to find ways to integrate my studies into other classes and real life, especially math. The biggest challenge that I have faced so far in my academic journey is timing and procrastination. Procrastination is the enemy of any STEM major that has lived to tell the tale. 

FOSSI: What extra-curricular activities are you enjoying on campus? 

As a freshman, I was inducted into the National Society of Leadership and Success, an Honor society for professional development. I also joined an assortment of other activities such as ACS Chem Club, and Vanguard, a campus organization that host events and gives tours for prospective college freshman. I also became a Drill Instructor for the General Chemistry I course in my sophomore year.  A Drill Instructor is much like a T.A., and this role helped me gain leadership experience and immersed me in the world of teaching. I also began working in the research labs of Xavier in Dr. Dutta’s research lab. In the lab, I work alongside students of Xavier and graduate students doing ionic liquid polymer synthesis. I learned lab etiquette techniques, and gained valuable lab experience.

FOSSI: Is there anything else you would like to share?

I had the pleasure of attending the ACS Conference in New Orleans, March 17-20, 2024. Myself, along with other student researchers in the Dr.Dutta lab at Xavier University, participated in the Undergraduate Poster Session, and were allotted the chance to present our different research and findings at the conference. This past year, I have worked alongside my team on a multitude of projects which mostly involve polymer chemistry.

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