2019 Best & Brightest: Lillian (Lily) Olsen, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Foisie)

Lillian (Lily) Olsen

Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Foisie Business School

“I’m an enthusiastic, fun-loving, social multi-tasker who is always up for new experiences.”

Fun fact about yourself: I started riding roller coasters while still in diapers and was psyched when I was tall enough to get on any coaster in the park.  And then I stopped growing (I’m only 5’2”).

Hometown: Princeton, NJ

High School: Hopewell Valley Central High School

Major: Dual in Industrial Engineering & Mechanical Engineering

Favorite Business Course:

WPI has a class called Achieving Effective Operations that I have loved and have been leading the lab portion of the course for the past two years. The course is focused on process improvement and the lab component is physically making clocks. Through each week of the lab, we make the process more effective by taking out the non-value added steps.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles During College: (Include school awards and honors)

  • Coxswain, Men’s Varsity Crew
  • Treasurer, Omicron Delta Kappa – National Leadership Honor Society
  • Alpha Pi Mu – Industrial Engineering Honor Society
  • Events Committee Co-Chair, Senior Class Board
  • Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers
  • The Ray Cherenzia ’73 Award – “Unsung Hero”
  • National Invitational Rowing Championship (NIRC) All-Academic Team – May 2017 & May 2018
  • WPI Dean’s List – Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018 & Fall 2018
  • Lean Green Belt Certification

Where have you interned during your college career?

  • Business Leadership Summer Intern, GEICO, Woodbury, NY – Jun-Aug 2018

Led and collaborated with an eight-person project team that analyzed customer sales data and conducted interviews to determine what improvements could be made to positively impact customer satisfaction survey results. Planned and facilitated a community service project making dog toys for a group of 24.

  • Summer Intern, Church & Dwight Co., Inc., Princeton, NJ – Jul-Aug 2017

Worked in the “Unit Dose” and “Oxi-Clean” chemistry labs as a lab assistant. Used engineering optimization tools to suggest and improve processes within laboratory operations.

Where will you be working after graduation? Unknown

What company do you admire most? L.L. Bean is a company I admire as they have high-quality products and high employee satisfaction. This pride has helped create a favorable company culture and great products, enabling them to keep production within the United States while also using sustainable resources.

Who is your favorite professor? Professor Walter Towner has been one of my favorite professors since I took a class with him in my sophomore year. He cares about each of his students as people, independent of their grade. He relates his experience in industry to the classroom to make the material relevant and uses examples that college students are interested in.

What did you enjoy most about your business school? WPI, as a whole, has a project-based learning system which is what I have enjoyed the most. In classes, we have connected with companies and been given problems to solve, allowing us to gain real experiences. I had the opportunity to spend eight weeks in Morocco working in an interdisciplinary team of students. We were partnered with a local sponsor to help promote the Solar Decathlon Africa. We visited local universities to promote the event and let students know how they could get involved. These project experiences have fostered great memories and once in a lifetime experiences.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from studying business? Management and leadership courses have taught me there is always a human element that must be considered. These interpersonal skills are relevant within a company as well as with clients or customers. With WPI’s project-based learning system, I have been able to implement management skills learned in the classroom to teams and extra-curricular activities.

What advice would you give to a student looking to major in a business-related field?  Learn about the process, in addition to the product. Products will change over time, but understanding the steps to a process will create an environment ripe for improvement and the development of new products. Understanding the big picture and how a specific role fits into the broader vision will allow individuals to better understand each other’s challenges and contributions.

What has surprised you most about majoring in business? Business is everywhere and has no real limit. Everyone should have some understanding of business as these concepts are relevant to everyone. This is true for managing a household budget, working for a non-profit organization, or running a Fortune 500 company.

“If I didn’t major in business, I would be majoring in or studying…Mechanical Engineering, but I’m actually doing that in addition to the industrial engineering and Master of Science in Management. I really enjoy the technical aspect of mechanical engineering, the interpersonal aspects of management, and the relationship between business and technical knowledge with industrial engineering.”

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? I loved the concept that I could major in industrial engineering in the Foisie Business School at WPI while also gaining an ABET accredited degree. My high school AP Stats teacher, Adam Shrager, was influential in helping me make my decision to pursue industrial engineering at WPI. Additionally, there were other supportive people that assisted in the decision as well as a number of factors that pointed me this way.

Which academic, extracurricular or personal achievement are you most proud of? One of the awards that I am the proudest of is The Ray Cherenzia ’73 Award – “Unsung Hero” award through the athletic department I received in April of my junior year. As a coxswain, in addition to my work during practices and races, I work hard to organize and do the behind-the-scenes jobs for our crew team for the past three years because I love the team. I was ecstatic when the coaches recognized my hard work and my time commitment. This award continues to keep me motivated through my senior year and to make the transition process to multiple new coxswains and managers the best it can be.

Which classmate do you most admire? My roommate Theresa is a fantastic student and friend. She has always been a hard worker and strives for the stars, starting with landing her first internship at her dream company. She has motivated me and helped me be the best that I can be. Her hard work and dedication are inspirational, creating a positive environment for both of us.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My crew coaches, Larry Noble & Bryan Pursell, have influenced me to never stop trying and to learn from every mistake. They have fostered an environment of teamwork and learning together which I have been able to translate into my classes and group projects.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? I don’t have a bucket list, as I want to enjoy each moment – bucket list activity or not.

What are your hobbies? Working out and socializing with friends.

What made Lillian such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2019?

“Lillian H. Olsen embodies everything WPI hopes to develop in its business school students. Lily is at once an engineering and business major wrapped up in the same person. She teaches a process flow lab from both of these perspectives which results in attracting business majors and non-majors to my course. Lily’s time management skills are the stuff of legend, having a high GPA in both of her majors, and by also completing an MS in management concurrently. Did I mention she is the coxswain for the men’s crew? A management task if there ever was one, organizer, motivator, pacesetter (literally). Ms. Olsen has made her mark on the men’s crew, our mechanical and industrial engineering departments, and yes, in other ways, for other campus organizations. I am not sure how she does it, there could never be two Lily Olsen’s, but it sure seems so!”

Walter Towner PhD MBA
Associate Teaching Professor
Director, WPI Center for Innovative Manufacturing Solutions
Foisie Business School
Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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