Olivia Hettinger worked as a camp counselor and volunteer coordinator at Pinecrest Camp in Langrane, Tenn., last summer and hopes to this coming summer. COURTESY IMAGE / OLIVIA HETTINGER

After submitting an accidental application over the summer to a student-run geospatial data science lab, Olivia Hettinger ’23 found herself making an impact at the College of  William and Mary one experiment at a time as a research assistant for the Geospatial Evaluation and Observation Lab.

Between her time in the lab, Hettinger, who is majoring in economics and minoring in math, also acts as a campus tour guide and is a member of Pancakes and Politics, a group that ventures to a different Williamsburg pancake house every Saturday morning to discuss politics over breakfast.

Hettinger recently transitioned into the role of lab lead for the geoLab. As the lab lead, Hettinger hopes to provide opportunities to students while maintaining the sustainability of the lab.  

“My goals for the lab are, number one, to give our students as many opportunities as possible, and number two, to be as sustainable as possible in doing that,” Hettinger said. 

“My goals for the lab are, number one, to give our students as many opportunities as possible, and number two, to be as sustainable as possible in doing that,” Hettinger said. 

She pulls on her past experiences as a camp counselor to help assist her in making the managerial and administrative decisions required in the new role.  

“My specific position doesn’t do research anymore. I only think about a long-term picture,” Hettinger said. “And so, I am trying to expand and diversify the partners that we are working with.” 

As a young student with such a large leadership role, Hettinger believes she has a unique perspective on how she will influence the lab. 

“I’m provided the opportunity to improve my skills every year, improve my network every year,” Hettinger said. “I have three and a half years to make this place my own, and I’ve already started. We’re already thinking about how we can branch out. I have the time to foster to relationships and then make sure they’re sustainable … I have time to change the direction of things.” 

Hettinger’s interests initially were focused on foreign aid, but she has developed a strong passion for data in her time at the College thus far. She is especially fascinated with spatial data and how one can plot and map it to visualize results.  

“Once I got into the lab, I realized that data is so exciting, and it’s such a puzzle because we use one dataset to back out other data,”  Hettinger Said.

“When I was coming into my freshman year, I was really interested in foreign aid,” Hettinger said. “Less so data, more so foreign aid. … Once I got into the lab, I realized that data is so exciting, and it’s such a puzzle because we use one dataset to back out other data.”  

When she’s not in the lab, Hettinger immerses herself in her other extracurricular activities. As a tour guide, she has an opportunity to share what aspects of the College she loves, as well as being reminded of why she chose to be a member of its community.  

“I love being a tour guide,” Hettinger said. “I think it makes you really grateful for where you are. When you, every week, have to voice to group of people for an hour and 15 why you love your school why you chose to come here it makes you exponentially more grateful.” 

COURTESY IMAGE / OLIVIA HETTINGER Hettinger has expressed interest in a consulting position after graduation.

Hettinger said she uses her other activities as a way to better get in touch with the College community, as well as the surrounding community. 

“I have found that it’s very important for my happiness here to get off campus at least once a week,” Hettinger said. “I am from the city and so I had gone through periods of feeling very trapped during the first semester and so I learned that my happiness here increases exponentially as soon as I started to participate in my greater community.” 

Although she is only a freshman, Hettinger has already begun to think about potential career goals — although they still change frequently.  

“I love math, it makes me happy and all that extra nerdy stuff. Math is beautiful, and the fact that we can use math at rates of change in graphs to represent human economic truths is incredible,” Hettinger Said. 

“I think I want to do management consulting and cut people’s costs for a living,” Hettinger said. “I love math, it makes me happy and all that extra nerdy stuff. Math is beautiful, and the fact that we can use math at rates of change in graphs to represent human economic truths is incredible.” 

Hettinger still has plenty of time to decide, however, and to enjoy her time here at the College. Initially, Hettinger said that she felt a strong sense of happiness and community upon her first visit here and is excited for three more years to experience the College. 

COURTESY IMAGE / OLIVIA HETTINGER Hettinger appreciates the warm and happy atmosphere at the College.

“The first I ever came to campus was Day for Admitted Students on April 13 when I was a high school senior,” Hettinger said. “It was raining, and so they crammed 1,300 people into one half of the gym floor of Kaplan Arena. All the student organizations were tabling, and they were telling you why you should join their organization. People were stopping me like ‘Oh I love your sweater’, and I was like ‘Thank you!’ I looked around and I saw so much happiness and love of school, and I thought to myself that I had to come here, and I had to be that happy.” 

Hettinger is excited about the work her lab fosters, and that she has time to grow and further develop her passions. 

“We are training the next generation of data scientists, and data is only growing bigger,” Hettinger said. “We want them to see the full extent of what they can do.”