Defining a Tiger

Graduate student Lily Williams’ time at Mizzou unveiled the power of both preparation and adaptability in her pursuit of public relations success.

  • Lily Williams stands for photo in front of Mizzou's columns
    Lily Williams visited the University of Missouri during Summer Welcome ahead of her freshman year. As an aspiring broadcast journalist, she chose Mizzou for its hands-on learning opportunities for student journalists.

May 31, 2024
Contact: Deidra Ashley,

Graduate student Lily Williams is the definition of a go-getter.

From proactively seeking out learning opportunities in the Missouri School of Journalism to taking on leadership roles in student organizations and pursuing a graduate degree while finishing her senior year in college, Williams has demonstrated persistent initiative and a relentless drive to excel in every aspect of her academic and professional journey.

An aspiring investigative broadcast journalist during her senior year in high school, Williams felt she had found the perfect place for her college experience at Mizzou. But Mizzou scored a win, too — throughout her nearly five years at the university, Williams has embodied exactly what it means to be a Tiger.

“She's one of those special students who comes through the program every so often who just makes her presence known,” said Jon Stemmle, professor of strategic communication. “I feel like I know where she's going to be 10 years from now. It's very humbling to be able to help a student like her reach the potential that you can see in her.”

A highly motivated student and natural planner, Williams quickly embedded herself in the journalism school, ultimately leading her to discover a love for strategic communication.

“Mizzou has anything and everything that you could ask for from a college experience,” Williams said. “You’ll find strong academics and incredible people who can encourage you to break out of your comfort zone. When I interview or talk to people in my professional network, they say there's no students like Mizzou’s, because our programs provide you with tangible skills and experience in whatever field you want to go into.”

That training is precisely what led Williams to spend almost five years at MU, where she is now in her final semester of the accelerated master’s program. She will earn a Master of Arts in Journalism, specializing in public relations, and will write her thesis on cybersecurity incident response. 

Strategic shifts

As a freshman, Williams immediately immersed herself in learning opportunities across campus. In addition to practicing the Missouri Method of hands-on learning in her journalism classes, Williams got an on-campus job as a Writing Center tutor, where she’s helped Mizzou students improve their writing, served as a member of outreach team and developed the center’s annual reports.

“Lily has seen, read, outlined, thought about and responded to work from over 400 students on top of the students she’s worked with as a teaching assistant in other journalism courses,” said Aaron Harms, director of the Writing Center. “Those numbers alone mean that almost by osmosis, her writing and interpersonal skills are getting polished.”

Williams also joined Mizzou’s chapter of the American Advertising Federation and became president during her junior year. With chapters all over the country, the organization provided her with extensive learning and networking opportunities.

Inside the classroom, Williams explored a real-world agency setting through her senior capstone, MOJO Ad, where she led a team of 11 people through designing a campaign for the Mondelēz brand Sour Patch Kids. Before joining MOJO Ad, she faced uncertainty about her abilities. It was Jamie Flink, associate professor at the School of Journalism, along with Stemmle who reminded Williams of how much she had prepared for her role.

“I used to have self-doubt over whether I could really be the leader that I wanted to be,” Williams said. “When you see a faculty member, like Jamie or Jon, have confidence in you as a student and know all that you can achieve, it pushes you to work harder. They've really driven me throughout my experience here.”

Williams’ newfound confidence showed when her team presented its campaign ideas to representatives from the brand.

“It was a moment when I saw all of the opportunities that Mizzou brought me and all of the wonderful people I've become close with, tied into that project,” Williams said. “It was the perfect ending to my senior year —I knew I had made the most of my college career.”

Defining her future

After finding her place and her passions at the university, Williams knew one thing — she wanted to stay. During her junior year, Williams applied to join the accelerated master’s program as a senior.

“It was a no-brainer decision to return to Mizzou for graduate school,” Williams said. “Beyond the outstanding faculty members that advocated for me during my time as an undergraduate student, the School of Journalism has top-tier resources and an application-based program that’s so widely respected in the industry.”

This month, Williams received her Master of Arts in Journalism after successfully defending her thesis. 

Throughout her journey at the university, Williams’ work ethic and the support from Mizzou and its faculty pushed her to find her true potential.

“Mizzou has provided me with a community of peers and alumni mentors who have shaped my growth during my five years here,” Williams said. “We have an ever-generous alumni base, and the Mizzou Mafia is real. Even after graduation, I plan to remain closely connected to Mizzou through alumni groups across the country and nurture my relationships with the alumni who’ve led my journey.”

Story written by Audrey Brown

Subscribe to

Show Me Mizzou

Stay up-to-date with the latest news by subscribing to the Show Me Mizzou newsletter.