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MAFA Success Stories - Alumni Emily Liebau

Updated: Jan 27, 2020

Meet MAFA’s 2017 - 2018 Secretary

Q: What is your undergraduate degree?

The short answer: I graduated with a major in Journalism, concentrating in International Reporting, and a minor in Graphic Design and Asian Pacific American Studies.

The long answer: I changed my major FIVE TIMES. Your major does not define you, what will you do with your EXPERIENCES?

My freshman year I went in wanting to do something health related, specifically something along the lines of pediatric oncology. I remember at orientation staring at my name tag, it said ‘Emily Liebau, Nursing.’ I thought about how many times I’ve been a hospital growing up; visiting my mom at work, seeing my dad, my titas, waiting rooms, things I didn’t like remembering.

Sitting in a row next to hundreds of other students, I awkwardly stood up and walked up to the nearest student arranging people in their seats and muttered out “I don’t want to do this.” He looked at me confused, until he realized I was pointing at my name tag. Surprisingly, he directed me out of the auditorium to a room of other students like me having an identity crisis.

After many questions with a stranger asking me what I’d maybe like to do, my name tag now stated I was to be a ‘Vet Tech.’ It took me about two weeks in a 600 person lecture hall for chemistry with a professor I couldn’t even hear talking to realize I still was in the wrong place.

I ended up dropping chemistry and finding comfort in my women’s in america writing class, where I wrote my first spoken word. I’ve always loved writing and anything to do with art. It was a way to express myself that I felt vulnerable and strong at the same time.

Terrified of how my parents would react, I walked into the College of Arts and Letters sweating and declared I would be a Fine Arts major. I remember taking a photo in the bathroom right afterwards in my trendy wool coat seeing paint splattered on the floor and thinking, “This is it!”

It was not it. Hundreds and hundreds of dollars went into my art supplies. Paper, gouache, pencils, you name it, I bought it. I could simply not afford it. As much as I LOVED the classes I was in, I was unable to withstand the fear of not impressing my parents, and being flat out broke.

So I ran away from my dreams and went back to what I felt everyone still wanted me to do; health, neuroscience sounded ok for some reason. I found myself in another 600 person class, Biology this time, and thought wtf. WTF am I doing, why am I here, and why can’t I just pursue what I want, things I love.

Fast forward, I ended up settling in journalism, that way I finagled taking as many writing and art classes I could fit in. Everything from game design to infographics. I enjoyed learning about the community, talking to people, and still being able to fit in other classes I adored.

Fast forward to now, I have a very funky title that somehow is supposed to declare what my parents paid thousands of dollars for, and I’m okay with that. I loved what I did in clubs, after class, and for work. I know I can speak about my experiences passionately, because it wasn’t perfect, and that’s okay, that’s real. I decided to take a year off because of medical reasons, and being able to visit family. I’m still on a journey of seeing where my life will go, but I’m excited knowing that at any moment anything can change.

Q: Did you hold any leadership positions in college? If so, what made you do so?

Yes! I was publicity for MSU PASS for two years and I love love loved it. It allowed me to focus on design and creating during periods of my life where my major didn’t align with art. The people on e-board were the light of my life, we had frustrating times, but also amazing times I wouldn’t change for anything else. I chose not to be on e-board my senior year to adventure out into being on MAFA board, but all in all, being on an e-board shaped me tremendously. You will learn how to manage events, communicate with people, and maybe even figure out what type of person you are. You and your friends are in control of how the rest of your school perceives your community at a minimum, will you have a strong voice? Or will you sit back? If you’re interested in being on your school’s board, do it! If you don’t, the opportunity will PASS before you know it.

Q: How did being involved in your school/organization help you grow as a person/leader?

For PASS: It challenged my time management a TON. I’m definitely the kind of person during a group project that wants to do everything just because I want it to be perfect. Being on board made me realize how important communication and working together is. It helped me realize when I needed to slow down and ask for help. Asking for help made me feel vulnerable, but it felt a million times better than deciding to just give up alone. The people around me were a great support system, in and outside of meetings.

For School: I tried to utilize anything that stood out to me. Whether it was jobs or clubs, I truly felt like I did everything I could! (probably too much!) Being a Resident Assistant brought me back onto campus and made me more aware of everything the university has to offer and making people feel like they’re at home. Working as a Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence educator made me feel empowered during a time on our campus that was frustrating and painful. It helped me learn a lot about myself and my own experiences, and bring that knowledge into helping and educating others.

Q: Do you believe you left behind a "legacy" in your organization? If so, what is it?

I know both of the presidents I worked with would definitely say, heck yes. So I’ll answer the same :) Over anything I think we emphasized the importance of communication, trying new things, and family over everything. We really tried to make our organization to feel like a home away from home, especially emphasizing to our alumni to come back and spend time with us. Now that the ground work for that was set through our 25th anniversary and other things, I’ll definitely be excited to come back for anniversaries and events to come.

Q: Have you ever talked about your organization or MAFA in a job interview?

Definitely! It’s part of the core things I talk about. All of the organizational skills, people you communicate with, the amount of time and effort I put in with others is irreplaceable. A lot of my genuinely difficult but rewarding experiences come from being on board, and interviewers want stuff that’s realistic, not some random fluff.

Q: What is your current job?

Right now I work part time at Lululemon. The day after I graduated I was in the hospital and diagnosed with something that would affect me for this past year, making me unable to work. This job has helped me get my feet back on the ground, begin to explore new possibilities, and gain back confidence in my health. The best part has been meeting people in the community working towards empowering others through movement.

My goal is to work towards doing something with apparel design, illustration, and/or animation. I love storytelling through art and helping people realize their true power, whatever jobs I choose along the way always relate back to at least one of those two things.

Q: What advice would you give to your college Freshman self?

Stop trying to please everyone. Amazing growth just takes time, believe in your efforts rather than wishing for immediate success. I feel like despite the ups and downs, there’s nothing I would change about my college experience because it made me who I am today, but reinforcing that everything’s gonna be okay is definitely helpful

Q: What advice would you give to other in the MAFA community about leaving college and entering the job world?

Your twenties are the weirdest fucking time. Seriously. It’s seriously nothing like you would expect.

Everyone around you starts getting married, moving, making money, job hunting, buying houses, it’s all a complete roller coaster. Don’t get caught up what everyone else is doing, because NO ONE actually has it ‘all figured out.’ Create a space, a mindset, goals, for YOU.

Literally the day after I graduated I was in the hospital and diagnosed with something that I would struggle with for this past year. You never know what will happen, and know that’s okay.

Cherish your friends, even though they all turn into long distance relationships, the smallest of check ins will still matter.

For jobs, apply to a ton, but nothing that doesn’t relate to what you want. A lot of people might disagree with me on this one, but I refuse to apply to a job that has absolutely nothing to do with moving me forward in some way shape or form. Make sure you follow up with your interviewer until you get a response! Being persistent definitely makes a difference.

You might even face a period without a job. OWN that space. How will you use that time to focus on yourself, your support system, your goals?

Take a deep breath and try to remind yourself you’re still growing, you’re still amazing, and you can do whatever you set your mind to.

Q: What advice would you give to a student in your field or a student who is struggling to find their way?

Ask yourself, am I doing something fun? Does what I’m doing, at any point make me crazy happy, relaxed, or super excited? Nothing you love will be perfect all the time, but challenge what you truly want to be a part of your life. It’s better to change the direction of your life rather than being stuck at a dead end of something that makes you unhappy.

Q: What is your greatest memory of your organization or MAFA?

PASS - Probably our 25th anniversary? It was amazing to put on such a huge event and work so crazy hard on something. Establishing a connection with alumni all the way back to our founders was amazing. A lot of sweat and tears went into the event, but I truly felt grateful to be a part of such an enormous family.

MAFA - Definitely anything to do with senior year MAFA board. Everyone on that board is a GEM. I’ve never met a group of people so honest, understanding, and inspiring. We had our fill of ups and downs, but I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to be in touch with during such a hard year. The late night video chats are heavily missed but always in my heart.

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