Late into one Quaker Campus production night in Fall 2019, then-Head Copy Editor Ky Watnick turned to their co-editor at the time, Head Copy Editor, Brianna Wilson, and said, “One day you are going to get into the head office.” Beyond the dining room table-esque copy editing space and the crammed together section editor computers was the head office, where the Editor-in-Chief, Deputy Editor, and Managing Editor would close themselves off. Now a fourth-year, Wilson has made it to that office as Editor-in-Chief of the QC and has done what she had always planned: left that door open. As someone who, both, goes with the flow and ensures she is busy almost every waking moment, Wilson has embraced being a leader who is open to new ideas and knows how to incorporate them to get the job done.
Wilson decided she wanted to be a journalist in the fourth grade, when a journalist visited her class and inspired her to learn more about the career. She had her first introduction to professional writing in high school, when she held a brief internship writing copy for the Santa Fe Springs Chamber of Commerce. She joined the Quaker Campus almost immediately after coming to Whittier College in Fall 2018 as a way to pursue her interest in journalism on a campus without a journalism major or minor. Wilson has written for every section at the Quaker Campus, and was even offered the position of Assistant Arts & Entertainment Editor, which she turned down. “I am always so happy to do research and help people out. It is in my nature to want to fix things, which is why I have such a knack for copy editing. I love finding mistakes and knowing ‘hey, I can fix that,’” Wilson explained why she stuck with copy editing until she became Managing Editor in her third year and then still oversaw the section.
Wilson clings to what she is passionate about, such as editing, and has a difficult time delegating tasks. While this might seem to characterize a control freak, talking with and working alongside Wilson reveals a different story. Being busy is a welcome distraction to Wilson and she is not known to slow down. “I always like to have something happening. I am one of those people whose head is always going and I am always thinking about things. If I want to not think about, ‘oh I should be doing this or that,’ then I will have a YouTube video up or be listening to true crime,” said Wilson. If she is dancing or otherwise exercising, she still probably has a YouTube video or something in the background. She classifies herself as being a major social media addict. However, it definitely paid off, as Wilson met her best friend, Kylie, over Vine seven or eight years ago.
Wilson apologized as we started the interview, avoiding the Zoom camera by fiddling with her sleeves and flipping her phone face up to face down to face up… She was reading texts from Kylie, who was making her laugh because they were trying, and failing (as they expected), to get VIP tickets to Stray Kids in Inglewood. Wilson had previously visited Kylie in North Carolina (where she lives) and, now, Kylie was planning a trip to California where they will, one way or another, see Stray Kids in concert. While she loved her visit with Kylie, Wilson will do her best to never return to the U.S. South.
Born in Southern California, Wilson moved to small-town Pennsylvania, or Pennsyltucky, when she was seven years old and lived there until she was sixteen, when she moved back to California. She was the only woman of color in her school and one of only two Black kids. While Pennsylvania is not the South, she says outside of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia… it might as well be. Wilson cannot even really imagine anywhere in the U.S. outside of California she would want to live, especially as a queer Black woman. Wilson is also a lover of language (one of her minors was Japanese), who dreams of traveling but is aware of how some countries’ may react to her identity. She even thinks about living in Australia, you know, “the part that does not have bugs.”
For now, Wilson is glad to be in Whittier. She had thought about going to college in the Bay Area, but chose Whittier College for the reason that wins over many: financial aid. She does not think she would have been able to continue going to college far from her home, given her grandmother passed away in January of 2019 and her mother died in early summer of the same year. While she did not choose Whittier because of its proximity to her small family, it turned out to be a benefit. True to her busy nature, Wilson went to class the day after her grandmother died and does not think the deaths in her family really impacted her grades. In fact, she did not really let them catch up to her until the pandemic hit and she went into her “deep downfall” for mental health.
During this time, Wilson worked at the Quaker Campus, Subway and then CVS, took summer classes, and kept moving as her mental health slipped. “[Keeping busy] is not a coping method,” she explains, “I swear, I did get therapy.” Even as she is talking about her experiences and emotions, she adds a clarification, “Everyone’s mental health slipped with COVID, really.” Classic deflection? More like Wilson’s ever-present desire to put everyone first. When we returned in person to the QC office, Wilson would check in with everyone as they worked and offer to buy them food or coffee (which inspired many team trips to Starbucks). “There were times she was the last person in the office on our too-late production nights, and then first person back in the morning to help pass out papers,” said former-Editor-in-Chief Tori O’Campo, whose leadership Wilson has strove to emulate. “She truly was one of the most dedicated members of the staff I saw the entire duration of my time there.”
Currently, a large part of Wilson’s life revolves around her brother, Dylan Smith. While they do not live in the same household currently (Wilson lives with her great aunt, or auntie, and he lives with his godmother), Wilson’s living on campus for her first two years of college prepared them for the distance. They call each other at least once every day and you will often hear her exchanging snappy retorts with her brother without realizing she ever got on the phone. Having graduated in January 2022, Wilson now looks towards getting a place of her own so that her brother can move in with her when he graduates high school in two years. He is an artist, and they have a long term goal of writing and illustrating a novel together, but, for now, Wilson will live wherever he plans on going to college.
Wilson may have a habit of putting other people and tasks ahead of herself, but that does not mean she is not succeeding. She graduated a semester early with a major in English and Japanese and an Africana/Black Studies minor, worked multiple jobs throughout her college career, is being recognized with a Student Life Award at the ceremony on April 28, and landed a job soon after graduating. She now works as a program director with the STRIPES Leadership Program in coordination with Monitor and will have the opportunity to dip her toes into the editing aspect of the publication as well. Wilson also works as a freelance copywriter for Poplar Publishing, a major publisher of children’s books in Japan, though the company is based in Florida.
Wilson’s inability or perhaps reluctance to slow down has meant one thing for sure for her future: she will see success in whatever she pursues due to her hard work and relentless determination. “I’ll forever cherish knowing her and learning from her composure and thoughtfulness in everything she approaches,” said O’Campo, speaking to the energy Wilson brings to all she does. Her family and friends will be there to cheer her on and support her (if she ever learns to ask for help) just as she has done for them.