Senior accounting major Brittney Oljar’s undergraduate career is ending on a high note. Not only is Oljar graduating this weekend and then heading to Italy for a well-deserved vacation before returning to a job as an IT auditor with PricewaterhouseCoopers (a company where she completed an internship last summer), but she’s getting to do all of this with some extra cash in her pocket.
In mid-May, the Oregon State campus was abuzz with rumors that a visit from popular comedian and daytime talk show host Ellen DeGeneres was imminent. These rumors erupted into a full-on frenzy when Ellen’s official Twitter account confirmed that although she wouldn’t be visiting in person, she would be interacting with students via a live satellite feed while taping a segment for her television show. The tweet instructed Oregon State students to show up on the Memorial Union Quad dressed up in their best “dad outfits” for “fun and prizes.” Thousands of students showed up hoping for the chance to win big — or at least make an appearance on national television.
Oljar says that her friend Erin is “obsessed” with Ellen, and the two of them simply thought that the event sounded like a fun excuse to dress up.
“We had heard about Ellen’s Twitter feed event from the University of Washington in April, and it just seemed like a really fun way to spent the afternoon,” said Oljar. “I had class until 2:00 that day, so I had to rush to my boyfriend’s house to borrow some of his clothes in order to show up in my best ‘dad outfit’,” she said.
After rushing back to the Quad in her boyfriend’s way-too-big clothes (Oljar, a soccer player at Oregon State, is 5′ 2″, while her boyfriend is 6′ 8″), Oljar was picked out the the crowd by one of the television show’s producers.
“I was standing in a sea of people, and when the producer came over, everyone parted to get out of the way. I just happened to be the only one left standing there, and they picked me,” said Oljar.
Oljar and a handful of other students were chosen to take part in a search for cash prizes that had been hidden throughout the Memorial Union. Knowing that there were two $500 prizes, as well as a $1,000, a $3,000, and a $10,000 prize all just waiting to be found, the students frantically made their way through the building, searching high and low for small boxes bearing the JCPenney logo (the sponsor of the event).
After all five boxes had been retrieved, Oljar and the other students who found them returned to the Quad to open their boxes while interacting with Ellen through a live satellite feed. You can watch the video below to see how it all unfolded:
“It was a total blur,” said Oljar. “I was so excited to be on the show that my memory of running through the MU is kind of blank. I thought the prizes would be in pretty obvious spots, but after not finding any of them right away, I eventually started looking underneath things. That’s when I finally found one; by looking under the couch at the top of the stairs,” she said.
Soon after the segment aired, Oljar’s phone started filling up with texts and messages from friends and family from all over the country who weren’t aware that she’d be appearing on the show. Many people were struck by her selflessness and generosity in saying that she would give her prize winnings away to a fellow College of Business student.
“Every year I was in the College of Business, I received a scholarship, ” said Oljar. ” My senior year in particular, the amount was quite generous. When combined with my soccer scholarship, my senior year tuition costs were completely covered. I was very excited about that fact, and I know how many people are struggling to pay for college. I very much appreciate the opportunities I’ve been given, and I and wanted to pay it forward. It means a lot to me,” she said.
Even though she didn’t win the grand prize, Oljar was still thrilled by the whole experience.
“This was the cherry on top of my already wonderful experience at Oregon State,” said Oljar. “I never would have pictured that this is how my undergrad would conclude,” she said.