Student of the Year: Oompa Williams

Kerong Kelly, News Editor

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Lakiyra “Oompa” Williams, an active member of community and proponent of social change, has impacted student life in so many ways. Throughout her college career, Oompa has worked closely with the LGBT Office, was a former academic ambassador, and worked closely with the Black Student Union, to name a few of her many accomplishments.

How are you involved on campus?

I work in the LGBT Office, the Office of Communications, and Performance Services. I am a former academic ambassador, and I work closely with the Black Student Union.

You raised an excellent point at last year’s Campus Climate event. After your four years, how is the University doing on issues of diversity?

From the get-go, the conversation [Campus Climate] automatically was not a conversation that I was a part of and not just me as one identity, but me as multiple identities or noticing that other people don’t have their perspectives up there. The conversation really turned into what the conversation on the campus climate usually turns into—which is Greek/non-Greek or religion/non-religion, that kind of thing. While I do respect those things and while I think those are important perspectives, given their value on this campus, I think that thinking about how I live on a daily basis and how that experience is shared with a whole group of people who are not represented, I thought that that needed to happen. I don’t think that whoever made the panel was intentionally thinking, “We’re just going to have these certain people here.”

Now, looking back at your college experiences, what changes would you have made?

I like to think I branched out—I have friends in groups that I would never had expected to have. But I think something I would have done is to spend less time angry at what Bucknell isn’t and spend more time appreciating what Bucknell is because for whatever reason, Bucknell gets a lot of great people. There are amazing people here and I wish I had taken advantage of that instead of being angry at the time. I would have spent more time learning about subcultures on campus.

How did you adopt the name ‘Oompa?’

I’ve always been short and chunky, but I was really good at basketball growing up. So you have to earn your street ball name in Boston so I used to play in Washington Park and the older guys were up there playing ball and whatever they call you, that’s your name. So they would say, “Pass the ball to the oompa loompa, come on oompa loompa.” It was never offensive, it was never like “Oh my god, I’m short and chunky.” It was not like I didn’t know that. It’s been like that since I was 12 years old, something like that.

What are you doing after Bucknell?

I actually have a job! I’m employed! There’s an education nonprofit called Breakthrough Collaborative, and there’s a new site in Boston and I’m the Managing Director of Student Services there. I’m going to be there for a few years and then I plan on moving to Atlanta.

If you could describe yourself in three words, what would they be?

Personable, reflective, and carefree.

What do you want to leave at Bucknell?

When I leave Bucknell, I just want to say that, if nobody had their back, I had their back. Or if they didn’t have a voice, then I had a little bit of their voice when I spoke. I just want people to have one good story with me. There’s one girl who doesn’t know me and said, “My freshman year, you made my day,” just because I walked up to her and said “You’re beautiful.” She remembered me for that. I just want people to be able to say that “Oompa is a good person. A genuinely good person. Here’s how I know. Story. Boom.” I don’t care about much other than that.

What was your favorite experience at Bucknell?

It was my freshman year, and I had to leave and it was really hard for me, a lot of family passed away, and things changed in my life. It was a really rough semester. I came back and I remember walking through Seventh Street House and like there’s streamers up on the walls and I’m like, “Oh, BASA must have had a party, they’re red black and green.” And I said, “Who’s having a party?” and my friend Alex says to me, “You are.” Everybody. Everybody packed into the Seventh Street House for my surprise birthday party. All of Posse, all of my Arts Res. [Residential College] people, friends from everywhere—Greek, non-Greek, freshmen, seniors–all there to wish me a happy birthday. It was also a “We know what you’re going through, we got your back.” That was an experience I will never forget. What was an experience that inspired me to make other people feel that way. That was such a big part of me feeling at home as much as I could at Bucknell. Wait no. Also, the other day, seeing how many people who didn’t know Ella or some people didn’t know me but they knew Ella, and it was just dope to think that I didn’t know what I was doing and in a couple hours, I needed people to help keep her here and how we’re really going to alleviate this problem. I went on Facebook and talked to a few people who asked questions. They shared it. All I know is that outside Dean [of Students Susan] Lantz’s office, there were 100 some people. That, to me, is a sign that I’m doing something right. There were people there off the strength of knowing me, or off the strength of knowing Ella and not knowing me and they learned about the problem later. They showed up and it made me feel really empowered to see that.

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