A Track Record of Leadership

PROVO, Utah – Dec 08, 2021 – With her heart pounding, Olivia Hoj-Simister anxiously awaited the sound of the buzzer to start the race that would, in the end, crown her a national champion. As the first leg in the women’s distance medley relay at the 2021 NCAA DI Indoor Track and Field Championships, she helped her teammates emerge victorious and claim BYU’s first national title in the event. 

Hoj-Simister's contribution to her team’s victory accurately reflects her leadership style of staying connected with her teammates. She ran on the BYU women’s track and field and cross-country teams for four years as an undergraduate and during her first year as a graduate student in the MPA program, which is offered through the Romney Institute of Public Service and Ethics at the BYU Marriott School of Business. She was also a captain of both teams for three years. “One crucial lesson I took away from my time as captain was how to communicate with individuals and cultivate unique relationships with each person,” she says. 

In addition to being team captain, Hoj-Simister, a Holladay, Utah native and current second-year MPA student, also served as copresident of BYU’s Student Athletes Advisory Committee (SAAC) for two years as an undergrad. This committee functions as the bridge between student athletes and the BYU administration. As copresident, Hoj-Simister oversaw multiple committees in the SAAC and helped organize initiatives that aimed to improve athlete experiences.

The skills Hoj-Simister learned during her time in these leadership positions carried over to her experiences in BYU Marriott’s MPA program. During the first semester of the program, students work in groups on most assignments. While working within her group, Hoj-Simister set a goal to develop her leadership skills even more.

“Building intentional relationships with each team member is an essential component of leadership and contributes to excellent team performance,” she says. “Intentionally spending time with team members and cultivating unique, individual relationships makes teams stronger.”

The MPA program teaches Hoj-Simister how to apply her leadership skills to management positions in the workplace. “My undergraduate leadership roles offered opportunities to work with a team, but I didn’t have all the necessary skills to successfully manage a team,” she says. “The MPA program shows me how to create quality teams and intentionally apply aspects of team building to my future career. One of my favorite classes was organizational behavior because I developed relationship management and organizational skills while learning how to set effective agendas and lead group meetings.”

Hoj-Simister, who graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in public health, wanted to pursue the MPA program at BYU Marriott because of its strong nonprofit emphasis. “I worked with some nonprofits in high school and also served as a director for a local nonprofit called Sunshine Heroes during the senior year of my undergrad,” she says. “The MPA program seemed like the perfect mix of my primary interests—health care and nonprofit work.” Sunshine Heroes is a nonprofit that sponsors service projects in communities across the globe.

Although Hoj-Simister no longer runs on the cross-country and track and field teams, she hopes to continue being a leader for her future teams in the workplace. “I’m still figuring out what aspect of public administration I’m most interested in,” she admits. “I love fundraising and resource development with nonprofits, but I’m also intrigued by corporate social responsibility. Whatever career I pursue, I know the MPA program has given me skills to flourish.”

MPA student Olivia Hoj-Simister ran on the BYU women's track and field and cross-country teams for five years. Photo courtesy of Olivia Hoj-Simister.
MPA student Olivia Hoj-Simister ran on the BYU women's track and field and cross-country teams for five years. Photo courtesy of Olivia Hoj-Simister.
Hoj-Simister with her women's distance medley relay teammates: Alena Ellsworth, Lauren Ellsworth-Barnes, and Courtney Wayment. Photo courtesy of Olivia Hoj-Simister.
Hoj-Simister with her women's distance medley relay teammates: Alena Ellsworth, Lauren Ellsworth-Barnes, and Courtney Wayment. Photo courtesy of Olivia Hoj-Simister.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Sarah Calvert