Olivia Varnson served as student manager of 98.1 WBCX until her 2016 graduation. She was the recipient of the scholarship named for the station’s founder, Clara Martin. Varnson currently works in commercial radio. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Clara Martin Scholar: Olivia Varnson

Olivia Varnson served as student manager of 98.1 WBCX until her 2016 graduation. She was the recipient of the scholarship named for the station’s founder, Clara Martin. Varnson currently works in commercial radio. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)
Olivia Varnson served as student manager of 98.1 WBCX until her 2016 graduation. She was the recipient of the scholarship named for the station’s founder, Clara Martin. Varnson currently works in commercial radio. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

As a transfer and commuter student, Olivia Varnson, WC’16, thought she would simply drive to Brenau’s historic Gainesville campus, attend classes and return home each day. Reserved by nature, the Buford native found out it’s virtually impossible not to be involved at Brenau.

The 2015-16 recipient of the Clara Martin Scholarship, the mass communications major with a broadcasting concentration worked at WBCX for two years, served as the sports editor for The Alchemist and worked at the Writing Center as a tutor. “Writing has always been my favorite hobby and both of those experiences helped me develop my writing, as well as feel more comfortable in leadership positions,” Varnson said.

Varnson said the scholarship, awarded to students interested in journalism, helped her immensely with expenses, allowing her to focus more on her senior-year studies. A self-described audio geek, she said her classes and working at WBCX as part of her degree program helped her develop as a leader and team player, two key workplace attributes.

“In the mass communication department, we were very hands-on with audio and video equipment. We worked on PR and marketing projects and did a lot of writing,” she said. “Working on those projects helped give me a well-rounded skill set, and I also learned a lot about working as a team. Many of our projects could not have been accomplished without teamwork and strong communication.”

Forever GoldVarnson’s WBCX experience especially honed these skills as she guided conversations of the station’s student show, learning how to make others feel comfortable enough to develop a rhythm and banter that helped make the recording process fun. “I took a lot of pride in the fact that there were many times where we would end a recording segment smiling, laughing and looking forward to the next week’s topic. I also developed a greater enthusiasm for all that goes on behind the scenes of radio – planning, editing, programming.”

The newly minted Brenau alumna plans to continue her work with Annita Thomas, who hosts a travel show every other week on WDUN. “Throughout my time at Brenau, I helped Annita plan her show and even got the chance to join in on some of her show recordings,” Varnson said. “Annita has been a wonderful mentor to me, and now that I have graduated, we plan to continue working together on some of her other projects.”

With steely resolve and nurturing spirit, Clara Martin left a triad of indelible marks on the Brenau landscape and the psyches of a generation of students.

Read more about the founder of Brenau’s radio station in MATCHMAKER’ CLARA MARTIN CREATED JOB-ORIENTED STUDENT EXPERIENCES.

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