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Willis Overton ’19

willis overton class of 2019

  • Major(s): Secondary EducationHistory
  • Minor: Spanish
  • Recipient, Saint Clare Academic Scholarship
  • Member, Dean's List
  • President, Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA)
  • Member, men's soccer team (2015-16 and 2016-17)

"Marian University is really booming right now—there are new programs, new buildings, and the campus is growing. It’s an exciting time to be a Marian Knight! Because we’re still a small campus, students get a lot of one-on-one with their advisors and professors, which is a huge benefit. And the small campus feel provides a strong sense of community."

In 2017, nearly 35 percent of U.S. college students changed their majors, with one in 10 changing majors more than once. Like many of his peers, Willis Overton is still exploring his career options. He’s interested in two different fields, but both focus on youth and helping them reach their full potential.

“Growing up, my grandparents were all educators, so hearing their stories inspired me. I’ve always enjoyed working with kids. And the idea of working a typical desk job has never appealed to me, so teaching makes sense. So when I came to Marian University, majoring in education was my first choice,” recalls Willis.

Now that he’s a senior, Willis is preparing to teach high school social studies and coach soccer teams. Last year, he traveled to South Korea with a group from the Klipsch Educators College.

The experience, he says, was amazing. “The culture in South Korea is so different than in the U.S. Things like how to greet each other and eat meals come with different cultural expectations. It was interesting to observe how much their culture and history has shaped their schools and educational systems. Despite our different cultures, at the end of the day, I believe Americans and South Koreans share many of the same values. Human nature is the same, no matter where we live.”

Willis is completing his last year of classes, which include field experiences at schools in and around Indianapolis, including Pike High School and Decatur Central High School.

One of the reasons Willis chose Marian University was because he had a good opportunity to become a member of the men’s soccer team. He competed on the varsity team for two seasons but decided he wanted to spend more time and energy on other pursuits, including getting involved in programs offered through the Office of Campus Ministry.

Willis has integrated his athletic interests with his faith. He is the 2018-19 president of Marian’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) chapter. He also participates in community outreach programs like Students Taking Active Reflective Roles (STARR), a Marian student group that volunteers to serve nonprofit, social service, and other organizations. “I’ve been blessed by my involvement in these activities, despite the fact that they weren’t part of my original plan when I started college,” he says.

In fact, his faith and interest in the ministry is so strong that Willis is starting to consider a career in urban or youth ministry. He attributes part of that interest to what he learned during his First-Year Experience Seminar.

“I chose urban issues as my seminar topic and I’d highly recommend it to all incoming Marian freshmen. Through this experience, I learned about key social issues like homelessness, incarceration, and poverty that have blighted many urban areas. The experience led me to accept summer internships with urban ministries, like Tear Down the Walls, and I still volunteer with these organizations today.”

Willis recently joined history faculty and students who took a four-day, five-night trip to Alabama that was focused on the history of the American Civil Rights Movement. The group visited historic cities including Birmingham, Selma, and Montgomery, seeing sites where many protests and violent clashes between police and citizens took place. “Just being able to walk the Edmund Pettus Bridge like they did on Bloody Sunday in 1965 was kind of surreal.”

As he completes the senior seminar required for his second major in history, Willis is also thinking about graduate study. “Dr. Ernstberger has made a big impact on me academically. I’ve really enjoyed her courses and am considering whether to pursue a graduate degree in history.”

So, whether he goes to graduate school, works in the ministry, or teaches in a K-12 classroom, Willis has lots of options from which to choose. He credits Marian University with helping him prepare for success after completing his undergraduate student experience.

“The courses at Marian have given me some great real-world experience. The field experiences in local high schools have opened my eyes to what teaching in a classroom is all about. And, through humanities, theology, and other courses, I’ve become more aware of and involved with what’s happening in our community and city.”

What’s the most important thing Willis has learned as a Marian student? “I’ve learned to take advantage of leadership roles when the opportunity has been presented, even when it has been outside of my comfort zone. Because Marian offers a variety of clubs, organizations, and programs, I’ve had lots of opportunities to lead. It challenged me to grow as a person.”

His advice for high school students who are considering what college and major to choose is don’t overthink it or make it too hard. “Just choose what’s best for you wherever you are at in life right now, whether it is the best opportunity financially, academically, or athletically. Your interests and goals will probably change before you graduate and that’s OK. Just take it one day, one week, and one semester at a time.”

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