Anne Olson ’08, Distinguished Young Alumna
After graduating magna cum laude from Southwestern with a BA in sociology, Anne Olson ’08 went on to work for Public Strategies Inc., a corporate communications and crisis management firm, as a fellow and account executive; and then as a public policy specialist with the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission in Austin.
In this most recent position, Anne lobbied state policymakers on hunger and poverty issues, human trafficking prevention and other critical policy issues, as well as analyzed statewide legislation and presented appropriate testimony to legislative committees and staff.
She coordinated the Texas Food Policy Roundtable (a statewide coalition of groups working to end hunger legislatively in Texas), and in 2013 passed two important bills—one opening up school breakfast for free to the poorest students in Texas, the other creating a public/private partnership to ensure the summer food service program was operating efficiently.
Anne also volunteered for Fresh Chefs Society, a non-profit start-up that focuses on nutrition education and culinary skills for youth transitioning out of the foster care system. It’s obvious why one of Anne’s friends says she is bright, hardworking and passionate about the greater good, and another says Anne is intelligent, compassionate, fun, caring and committed.
Currently, Anne is pursuing a masters degree at the University of Denver graduate school of social work, and interning with the Metro Denver Homelessness Initiative working on projects that give the individuals who are homeless in Denver a voice at the table for the services they receive.
One of her former colleagues at the Christian Life Commission says Anne taught her to ask not why but why not. She says she would love for her to do a “TED Talk” on how to embrace a concept even when you don’t have a personal connection, as Anne did with Big Hearts for Brave Hearts, Austin’s only non-profit hospice.
In addition, as a volunteer and board member for Ten Thousand Villages of Austin, Anne developed the nonprofit’s first ever fundraiser and watched the local store become one of the most recognized Ten Thousand Villages in the country. One of her colleagues says that with diplomacy and grace, Anne has shown the Austin Villages community that they can carry on and become their best selves, and has shown her, personally, that professionalism, perseverance and a sense of responsibility can work in partnership with pizazz and laughter … and, according to Anne’s dad, she does love to laugh!
A friend of Anne’s parents’ whom she met when in middle school finds it unusual and somewhat ironic to have worked with Anne professionally many years later; in fact, the two collaborated on a bill to significantly reduce childhood hunger in Texas. He explains that by all accounts, the bill was sent to committee to die, but a hearing was granted and Anne took the opportunity to prepare and her dedication paid off. After the bill unanimously passed, the expected dissenters said that Anne’s presentation changed their minds. Ultimately, the bill she helped write and shepherd through the Legislature was signed by the Governor and will help feed tens of thousands of children.
Growing up in Waco, Anne’s family and that of her fellow Distinguished Young Alumnus award winner, Blair Quinius, were next door neighbors and close family friends. Their fathers are also Southwestern alumni—Charlie Olson, class of ’78 and Dr. John Quinius, class of ’76.
Anne’s dad describes her as bright, compassionate, determined and insightful. He says she “gets it” – meaning that she understands people and is able to grasp big problems and think about big solutions. He also calls her an “honest broker of societal needs” who uses the tools provided to her by Southwestern to blend insight and compassion in order to identify and address these needs and to remind family and friends to continually work to do the same. Charlie is proud of both Anne and Blair and says it’s great to see young people like the two of them leave college and set out to make life better for others.
Anne loves new ideas, some of which come from the family dinner table (her mom is also very committed to programs like Texans Care for Children), and many from her time at Southwestern, where Anne was a member of Alpha Kappa Delta Sociological Honor Society.
For following her passions; for working toward fairness and justice; and for speaking out (in her dad’s words) for “the least of these,” The Association of Southwestern University Alumni presented Anne Olson ’08 with the 2013 Distinguished Young Alumna award.