Student Spotlight: Madison Olson leads her peers with a level head … and a puppy

Madison Olson types at her laptop with her dog, Winston

Each Wednesday night, the capstone class convenes on Zoom for its scheduled meeting. Some students join with dinner in hand given the 6 p.m. start time. Journalism senior Madison Olson usually shows up with her dog, Winston.

It’s Olson’s way of keeping an eye on her 4-month-old toy Australian Shepherd while also leading the newsroom, a team of students that runs marketing and social media projects for different podcasts at The Drag. She’s in charge of managing this student group as well as leading meetings with liaisons, students who communicate between the newsroom and podcast teams. It’s a huge undertaking that Olson handles with a cool grace.

“I try to just keep it relaxed because I’m kind of a goofy person,” Olson said. “If people are going to be quiet, I might as well just be silly and be myself.”

Olson volunteered for the leadership role when no one else in the newsroom would. She figured it wouldn’t hurt to try it out. Since then, she’s helped reshape how the newsroom functions in comparison to past semesters, and she said the team is finally finding its workflow.

“It’s kind of like working in a business,” Olson said. “In any career, you’re going to have some sort of structure that’s similar to this, so I think that it’s nice to get a little bit of experience [in] working with other people on a bunch of different projects going on at once.”

Robert Quigley, the capstone class’ professor, said Olson is a great fit for this role.

“Madison is a natural leader who draws from a variety of things she has learned during her time at UT,” he said. “She understands the entire process and is eager to learn.”

The versatility of journalistic skills is part of why Olson decided to study journalism in the first place. She’s always had her sights set on law school, and she figured a journalism degree would give her a good foundation for law and life. It would teach her how to communicate, ask good questions and write.

After Olson got accepted into the School of Journalism and Media, she told herself she’d try it out for at least a year. If she didn’t like it, she could reconsider. But she stuck with it. 

There were times where she felt behind compared to peers with high school journalism backgrounds, but she kept going. Olson thoroughly enjoyed learning from the school’s professors, especially media law professor Amy Sanders. The 8 a.m. class time didn’t faze her.

Olson will graduate this December with a Bachelor of Journalism. She’s torn between pursuing criminal law and constitutional law. She even sees herself becoming a judge.

“It’s kind of crazy that it’s now happening,” Olson said. “It’s hard to grasp that this thing I’ve been thinking about for so long is now finally becoming reality and not just like a far off dream.”

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