Alumni Spotlight on Lauren Williams: The Imperfectly Phenomenal Woman

Lauren Williams (ARAD ’19) tells us about her life after TC, and her experience in the ARAD program.

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Lauren Williams (ARAD ’19) tells us about her life after TC, and her experience in the ARAD program.

Jessie: Thank you so much for taking some time to answer a few questions about life post-graduation. I know that you graduated this past May. What have you been up to since then? What sort of projects have you been working on?

Lauren: The first thing I did after graduating was that I allowed myself to take some time to rest, I needed it. When I was at TC, I worked 40 hours a week at an internship and spent 20 hours a week working a part-time job, while also completing my degree as a full-time student. Having the opportunity to slow down and recover was really important to me.

Since TC, I’ve focused a lot of my time on my podcast. Specifically, in turning it from a passion project into a business. I love my podcast like it’s my child. It’s been super exciting to see it grow!

Jessie: Could you please tell me a little bit about the podcast?

The podcast is called “Imperfectly Phenomenal Woman” and focuses on reframing the unrealistic expectations that society wants us women to live up to. For example, people have the expectation that women should be married by thirty or that all women should want kids. But this isn’t true for everyone. On a weekly basis, I bring in guests who share the journeys they have been on.

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What I have come to realize through hearing women’s stories is that society isn’t the only pressure. We place a ton of pressure and have ridiculously high expectations of ourselves, our parents do too. Both of these internal and external voices make it really hard to navigate the world in a way that makes us happy, so hopefully my podcast sheds light on the situation in a helpful way that gives women the freedom to live life free from the burden of expectations.

One of my favorite aspects of this podcast is that I also really enjoy being able to talk to all of these awesome women. Some from Teachers College and Columbia University, whom I had connected with during my time at school, people within the Harlem community, and even women from up and down the east coast.

Photo courtesy of The Imperfectly Phenomenal Woman Podcast

Jessie: What inspired you to start this podcast?

Lauren: Honestly, breakups were a big reason. In a couple of my past relationships, I was trying to live up to this expectation of what a “good girlfriend” is supposed to be. What I thought of as “good girlfriend” didn’t equate to who I was. I found myself trying to fit into a mold that wasn’t for me. But then after attending graduate school and being in New York, I realized that people in NYC were genuinely themselves in a way that I had never experienced before while living in Virginia.

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They weren’t trying to fit into any boxes or live up to any unrealistic expectations. At TC, I had so much opportunity for self-growth and room to be myself. I’m extremely thankful for my time in NYC. I am also thankful for my close friend Breezy who called me an imperfectly phenomenal
woman, inspiring the title of the show.

Right: Photo courtesy of the Imperfectly Phenomenal Woman Podcast

 

Jessie: Although the podcast is still pretty new, what are some of your biggest takeaways from the experience?

Lauren: We internalize so much stress, but a lot of this stuff that we feel we have to live up to is not even real or it’s imagined. I think it is important to consider our stresses and what we can do to relieve them. What is in our control and what is out of our control?

I also learned the definition of a true and deep thank you. I feel thankful for the people I meet and they feel thankful to be a part of this pod. There is an episode where we talk about the “me too” movement, in it, we go into a discussion about how women are not supposed to come out and tell their stories. But on the podcast, one of my guests shared her journey through recovering from a moment of trauma. She was grateful that the platform was a way for her to be open, and hopefully impact others in a positive way. After her willingness to share her story, with me, and with the Imperfectly Phenomenal Woman community, I realized how thankful I was that she trusted me on that level. That was cool.

You can find the Me Too episode here 

I have really loved learning as I go. I launched this podcast in June and learned the ropes of the medium through a self-taught process of Google searches. The chance to devote my time to the creative development of something I deeply love has been really dope. This is how I want to spend my life and my time.

Jessie: How did the Arts Administration program help you meet your professional goals?

Lauren: The most meaningful aspect of the program was the network I made. Even now, being able to reach out to faculty, staff, and my cohort has been helpful. I have people in my network, who have people in their network, and the ripple effect of connections is amazing.

The professors were also a great resource, both when I was a student and even now as an alumna. Some professors that had a strong positive impact on my experience were Dr. Jennifer Lena, Brent Reidy, and Clive Chang. Also shoutout to Katarina Wong. She’s been a great resource and mentor.

Jessie: What are some of the skills you acquired or refined while in the ARAD program?

Lauren: A lot of great theoretical ideas were shared. I also learned basic skills from the courses I took, that have been very helpful for starting my own business.

The most memorable courses I took were Principals and Practices of Performing Arts with Brent Reidy, who was great at giving feedback and is even giving me feedback on my podcast. I also loved my courses about business strategy. Clive Chang gave us real tools to walk away from the course with.

I also took away a lot from the Law and the Arts course and I loved doing the final projects. I focused on the law of podcasting, where I learned about what content I can use and how to use it legally.

Jessie: What drew you to the ARAD program at TC?

Lauren: When I was at the University of Virginia (UVA) for my undergraduate degree, I studied new media design and printmaking. While there I put on fashion shows and realized that what I was doing was arts administration. My professor at UVA, George Sampson, said he was an alum of the Columbia Arts Administration program and I think the desire to go for it stuck with me ever since. I think my creative past informed my ways of thinking, so art administration made sense.

Jessie: As an alumna, what advice can you give to current or former students?

Connect with people as much as possible. Become involved in a number of organizations related to your interests. I took part in Student Senate and found it really helpful. It helped me branch out of my cohort and engage with people from other departments. Whatever network works for you, definitely join and become a part of the larger TC community.

For prospective students, I would say that it is helpful to have work experience before going into the program and specifically, before going into arts administration. Even if it is just for a year, it provides context. There is more to graduate school than just going to class and doing homework, you have to really take advantage of this opportunity! Be intentional and have fun!

Jessie: Are there any other final thoughts you would like to add?

Please check out the podcast, follow the pod on insta (@ipwomanpodcast), have a listen to an epison of the Imperfectly Phenomenal Woman Podcast and let me know what you think!

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Thank you Lauren for the insightful interview!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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