by Arikka Von (MSC ’15)
photography by Michael Kunde
Literature, pop culture, and music are full of famous alter egos: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Beyoncé and Sasha Fierce, Clark Kent and Superman. But alter egos are not just for superheroes and superstars. No one is one-dimensional, especially not Westminster alumni. In a quest to unmask the multifaceted personas of our alums, we asked you to reveal your alter egos. The responses poured in, and we were not disappointed:
- Business owner/national-dog-show presenter
- Grad student/historical costumer
- Nuclear-fuels lab tech/cat lady
The variety of egos, the fascinating careers, the intriguing hobbies—Westminster alums are a wonderfully wacky bunch! It’s clear that not only is each of you curious about the world: you also make it a better and more interesting place. Meet four such curious characters as we uncover their alter egos.
Drew Olsen (’14)
Computer support coordinator, Giovale Library at Westminster College
Dueling piano player at the Tavernacle
Mild-mannered Drew Olsen works in the computer lab of a library. He is our Clark Kent and yes, he is a superhero, but not the superhero you’re probably thinking of. As the computer support coordinator at Westminster, Drew often plays hero. When a piece of technology fails, he swoops in and fixes it. He argues that sometimes he’s also seen as a villain if he can’t fix it.
His day job in Westminster’s Information Services department includes managing student employees, providing technology training at orientation, training faculty, voicing over tutorials for new products, and providing support for Canvas (academic software). Everyone on campus knows Drew as the tech and computer guy. So, many are surprised when his rock-star alter ego emerges.
“I’ve always liked computers, but I’ve always considered myself a musician at heart,” Drew says.
At night, Drew becomes a raucous dueling piano player at a local pub called the Tavernacle. He trades his mild manners for whip-smart wisecracks and plays hero by belting out audience requests for Justin Bieber songs. Drew performs two or three nights a week, singing everything from country to ’80s rock and pop.
“I love that it’s introduced me to what people really like in music. Before I was so focused on classical piano. I didn’t know Beyoncé or any rap at all—and I really love it,” Drew says.
Drew started playing the piano when he was five years old. When his family moved to Manti, Utah, he studied with the strictest teacher in town. It worked. In high school, he won the national Stillman Kelley competition. His life revolved around piano.
“I found I got more girls if I was a good pianist. I didn’t have much else to lean on, didn’t have my looks, my athleticism. All I had was the piano, so I put all of my eggs in that basket,” Drew says.
Drew majored in music at Westminster with a minor in computer science. He’s now working in both fields. Drew also values the critical-thinking and problem-solving skills he learned in a philosophy class and other liberal arts courses because he uses those skills every day—sometimes in surprising ways.
“If a drunk person comes onstage and tries to grab my mic, how do I handle that while maintaining a fun atmosphere? You don’t learn that in college, but I learned how to improve my approach to problems,” Drew says.
He says many people are surprised to learn about his alter egos: his tech job and his piano gig. Drew says the two are actually very similar. Computers and music both have a set of structured rules, and both can be very creative. And neither fully defines him.
“I’m not the rock star they perceive. I’m just this nerdy guy who also likes music. I’m also very much a thinker,” he says.
Janet Lindsay (’01)
Air traffic controller
Janet Lindsay works behind locked doors in a dimly lit room of a secure radar facility. Lives are on the line every minute. Aircraft call in as the planes fly in every direction. Which ones are conflicting? What’s their next move? It sounds like the secret bunker of Princess Leia’s Rebel Alliance—or a tightly regulated air-traffic-control center.
Lives really are on the line. Janet separates conflicting aircraft to prevent collisions and issues instructions to pilots from the Salt Lake Air Route Traffic Control Center near Salt Lake International Airport. She also sequences arrival aircraft, clears aircraft for departure and arrival at non-towered airports, keeps aircraft clear of military airspace, disseminates weather information, and ensures aircraft stay above terrain. It’s high pressure and high stakes.
“We have to be ready for anything at any moment. The environment is very dynamic, and we can get inundated with aircraft or have a sudden emergency,” Janet says.
Janet studied aviation management at Westminster, then earned her private pilot license after graduation. She loves the efficiency involved in her career. The number-one concern in air traffic control is safety. Efficiency is the second priority.
“Having a degree in aviation gave me more confidence as I became a controller because I have a lot of background. My flight experience helps me understand the pilot’s perspective,” Janet says.
Outside of work, she’s navigating six-year-old Lindsay and five-year-old Cameron (affectionately nicknamed Pico) and juggling home, friends, and a serious addiction: marathon running.
“I lost track of how many half marathons I’ve run. Then I found I really love the pace of a marathon. It’s so challenging, and it nearly kills me at the end—but I love it,” Janet says. “If I run before I go to work, I will have more energy to do my job—and I’m a better mom.”
Janet didn’t start out addicted to running 26.2 miles. She could barely run down her street back in 2007.
“I ran past 10 houses and was huffing and puffing. I couldn’t keep going and had to stop. I literally took baby steps from there. I trained for a 5k, then a 10k, and built up,” she says.
So how does a busy single mom with a high-stress career that involves working rotating shifts find the long hours needed to train for a marathon? She fits in runs during errands that involve waiting, like an oil change or a trip to the grocery store. Janet’s double jogging stroller has a lot of miles. One day a week, she has a two-and-a-half-hour block of time, and she doesn’t waste a second of it.
“I run the children to school in the stroller, park the stroller, run 15 miles, pick them up from school, then run them home in the stroller. So I can get in 20 miles that way,” Janet says.
Janet seems to like challenges, whether it’s marathon training or pursuing an elite job in a traditionally male-dominated industry. It’s her career most people are surprised to learn about—not her running addiction.
“Hopefully that will get better, and people won’t only associate aviation with a male field,” Janet says.
While Janet is busting stereotypes and keeping lives safe in the air, she accomplished a major running goal this year: qualifying for the Boston marathon. Her alter ego is a force to be reckoned with.
Bo Smith (’12)
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competitor
Bo Smith is a full-time nurse in the behavioral health unit at LDS Hospital. He works intense 12-hour shifts with patients in the throes of their darkest days. Some have acute mental disorders; others are depressed or battling addiction.
“I do feel a lot of compassion for my patients and think there is a stigma against mental health,” Bo says. “I tell my patients I want to treat them like family while they are there, make sure they are safe on the unit, and get them home.”
Westminster’s nursing program is renowned for graduating top-notch nurses. Bo credits the program’s focus on positive patient outcomes and the development of individual nurse’s strengths for its successes. He also appreciates how writing-intensive the program was.
“The writing Westminster exposed me to prepared me for writing necessary nursing reports. I don’t see the reports as a burden. I see how they tie into a nursing-care plan and even billing,” Bo says.
It’s no wonder Bo describes his alter ego as playing chess with the body. He competes at Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, a martial art and combat sport. In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, two opponents grapple on the ground in a series of locks and holds.
“Brazilian Jiu Jitsu attracts a lot of cerebral people. It’s not just strength. It’s the judicious application of leverage and technique to overcome a larger and stronger opponent,” Bo says.
Bo started practicing Jiu Jitsu two years ago. He was just looking for a way to lose a bit of weight but found it influencing all aspects of his life: relationships, food, and work. He lost the weight and gained confidence, strength, and dexterity.
Bo is in Jiu Jitsu classes four to six days a week. He started competing in tournaments as a way to measure his progress, and now competition is in his blood.
“I also compete because I have tremendous anxiety. I can face my anxiety in competition. The more I put myself in uncomfortable situations, the more I can face that,” Bo says.
Bo now faces challenges in psychiatric nursing using lessons from the sport. Jiu Jitsu translates to gentle art. Patients may see a compassionate nurse in scrubs, but they might also get a gentle ninja if the circumstances warrant.
“Part of what nurses do is respond rapidly to changing situations,” Bo says. “In Jiu Jitsu, I see a situation and I move to establish a dominant position. I try to apply a submission. I make sure my position is solid before I make my move. Sometimes that happens at work because it’s acute psych.”
Chelsea Nelson (MPC ’11)
Digital marketing director, United Way of Salt Lake
Craft cocktail and spirits writer/photographer (or connoisseur)
Chelsea Nelson is a creative spirit. That’s what you call someone who writes a book about the rhetoric of the death industry for her master’s capstone project. Don’t worry—Chelsea’s alter ego and her day job have nothing to do with funeral homes. She’s all about social change and craft cocktails these days.
Chelsea earned her Master of Professional Communication degree at Westminster. She says grad school helped turn her passion for writing into a career. Just four weeks after graduating she landed a communication job at United Way of Salt Lake (UWSL).
Chelsea is the senior director of content and digital marketing at UWSL. She oversees digital content strategies, writes and edits content, and develops marketing campaigns. She leads a small team responsible for UWSL’s website, social media, content development, and story banking.
“We call ourselves a storytelling organization. Our work itself is quite complex and difficult to explain as a whole. So we have to be good at engaging people in small ways first,” Chelsea says.
UWSL works with nonprofits and organizations community wide to create lasting social change. It is the backbone organization bringing resources, people, and programs together. United Way calls it collective impact work, and it is creating real change for our local community. It’s Chelsea’s job to break down complicated messages and share them.
“When you talk about ‘system change,’ people don’t understand that. But what that means to one girl in one school is that the system is changing enough that she has access to resources in order to make sure she isn’t hungry or sick at school and can focus on learning. That leads to her graduating, going on to college, and further contributing to our community,” Chelsea says.
Chelsea and her team launched a new website for UWSL this year with compelling stories and impactful imagery. Chelsea is busy, and there is no shortage of creative work. That doesn’t mean her writing itch is scratched.
When Chelsea gets home from the office, she sheds the corporate long sleeves, revealing heavily tattooed arms, and shakes things up. Two fingers of bourbon and a splash of bitters over ice do the trick. And because there’s nothing old-fashioned about Chelsea, she whips up a savvy blog post about craft cocktails for her website, ritualandcraft.com.
Ritual & Craft, a cocktail diary, is exactly that: A record of experiences with fine spirits. Chelsea writes bartender profiles, reviews new bars in town, covers mixing competitions, and shares drink recipes. The site has made Chelsea a craft-cocktail connoisseur—an expert on Salt Lake City’s bursting craft-cocktail scene.
“I think the bartending and cocktail community here in Salt Lake appreciates that someone took notice and was giving them a space to showcase their work. They are doing amazing things, and they are very talented people. It is an amazing community to be a part of,” she says.
Chelsea uses her familiar tools—beautiful photos and compelling stories—to make Ritual & Craft’s message and aesthetic clear. She’s strategic about social media posts and the freelance writing pieces she accepts and pitches. She’s found her niche.
“The cocktail focus also happened because I’m a writer. So there’s not that much division between my two worlds because they are both birthed out of this creative place. I just get to do two kinds of it.”
About the Westminster Review
The Westminster Review is Westminster University’s bi-annual alumni magazine that is distributed to alumni and community members. Each issue aims to keep alumni updated on campus current events and highlights the accomplishments of current students, professors, and Westminster alum.