Ariane Willson

After growing up in the Arizona desert, I attended Providence College for a year and then transferred home to Arizona State University where I studied English Literature and Economics but was particularly interested in researching the use of psychoanalysis to interpret identity and behavior in modern art and architecture. While in school, I was the Vice President and Operations Director of the Business of Fashion club at the business school. A pivotal moment in my life happened when I impulsively applied to teach English and lead outdoor activities at summer camps for children in the Jeollanam-do province of South Korea, many of whom came from foster homes, orphanages, or economically burdened households. It was there, covered in mosquito bites, wielding a megaphone, and communicating in a melange of Kor-English, that I first experienced the unadulterated joy of service and turning ‘the good’ into impactful action. This trip sparked in me a curiosity for the challenge of the unknown, which led me to live and work around the world for about three years.

In 2016, I received a Fulbright grant to serve as an English teaching assistant in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic; during that time, I found myself offering counseling and coaching to my students, many of whom felt the weight of a traditional repression of mental health, heightened by that rollercoaster that is tumultuous teenage emotions. From there, craving a new challenge to push myself to grow in places that were less comfortable, I moved to Hanoi, Vietnam for a fellowship in college consulting where I partnered with brilliant students seeking admission to US liberal arts colleges. Designing and teaching courses in art history and philosophy, Spanish and Latin, public speaking and interviewing, and SAT math and writing, I once again experienced that elusive thrill: the profound joy of service and self-discovery.

Upon returning stateside, I continued my work with high schoolers, counseling some students while developing a boarding campus for international high school students attending a US high school outside of Chicago and moved to Nashville in the summer of 2020. An interest in the micro-impacts on others’ sense of self and freedom to express and learn led me to seek out graduate programs that might give me the tools to answer the question: what makes people happy in their work?

After beginning my masters studies in Peabody College’s Leadership and Organizational Performance program, I quickly sought out connections with graduate students across Vanderbilt schools and found a home within the TFC. I love our center for the diversity of people attracted to serve within an organization whose purpose is to open doors for impactful, compassion-fueled entrepreneurs, educators, and community organizers. I am honored to work alongside the lionhearted changemakers represented on this TFC Board 2021-2022 as we implement the mission of the TFC: fostering social enterprise growth and creative solutions for poverty alleviation.

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