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The Dartmouth
June 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Q&A with Lillian Johnson, manager of Collis Trivia and Monday Microbrews

Running Collis’s weekly programming is a challenging — but rewarding — task.

lillian johnson courtesy.jpg

Courtesy of Lillian Johnson

Lillian Johnson ’23 is an active member of the Collis Governing Board, one of three organizations that manages events for the Collis Center for Student Involvement. After volunteering to write trivia questions last winter, Johnson became more consistently involved in CGB events and now runs some of them independently. This week, the Mirror decided to sit down with  Johnson to chat about her leadership of Collis Trivia and Monday Microbrews — two weekly staples of the student community that brings people together in simple but meaningful ways.

How would you describe your position on the Collis Governing Board? 

LJ: Actually, the story of how I got into this section is pretty funny. I used to go to trivia every week with my friends on the rugby team, and a friend Gui Ramos ’22, who I met through trivia, was running trivia by himself. He was writing absurdly specific categories, so it was way too hard — we were complaining about it every week. We were like, “These questions are ridiculous! We know none of the answers.” 

As I was grabbing lunch with another one of my friends, I said, “I think I’m going to figure out whoever runs Collis trivia and see if I can help them write it, because they’ve been doing a horrible job recently.” My friend just happened to be on Collis Governing Board, and she was like, “Oh, my God, I know who does that. We need somebody to help with our trivia. I’ll add you to the group chat right now.” 

That happened on a Monday or Tuesday, and I helped write the following Thursday’s trivia. I’ve been doing the trivia ever since. 

What goes into organizing trivia?

LJ: Essentially, I request the trivia cards and pick them up, I send out the email, I order the food and then I write the trivia. There are typically six categories with eight questions per category. Usually, I have a partner who I do it with — Victoria Moss ’23 — but she’s currently on a study abroad, so I’m solo for this term. We split the questions, so whoever else I was doing it with would write half of them, and I would write the other half.

I also pick out the weekly prizes. There are prizes for first, second and third place of $15, $10 and $5 gift cards. I get to pick which local Hanover businesses I want to support for the week, and then go buy $180 worth of gift cards — a gift card for each of the six winners per group. 

How do you go about writing the questions?

LJ: I put a lot more effort into it than a lot of people might think. I try to carefully pick the category, so I’m not repeating too much. Also, I want a good balance between pop culture and harder things, like obscure history or science, because I want people to come back. People don’t come back if they don’t know the answers. I’ve found that if you don't know questions about World War II, you’re probably also not going to know questions about World War I or U.S. political decisions. 

But on the other hand, if you know those things, you probably don’t know other things. So if I do a range of categories, then lots of groups are represented. I think it’s fun when you get to be the person in your trivia group who’s like, “I actually know the answer to that one!” especially if you didn’t know the answer any other time.

What’s your favorite category that you’ve written for trivia?

LJ: My favorite category that I’ve ever written is the Harry Potter category. I am stupidly into Harry Potter, and I tend to write a lot of fandom categories. I try to write categories so that the average person gets an average of five questions right, but if you’re really into those subjects, the questions feel really easy to you. I’ve had people come up to me after trivia and say that the questions are too easy, and I need to make them harder.

Then, I wrote the hardest Harry Potter trivia that I could come up with without Googling anything. I think most groups didn’t get any of these Harry Potter questions right — one group got one of the questions right. Now, these questions are my go-to for friends who come up to me and are Harry Potter people who think the Harry Potter category is too easy. I’m like, “Oh, have I told you about my super hard Harry Potter category?” And they’re like, “Let me do it.” The highest score I’ve gotten is two.

Moving on from trivia, what goes into running Monday Microbrews?

LJ: We usually have a core group of people who help run microbrews. This term, it’s me, Lenox Huh ’24, Sophia Isphani ’24 and Maria Amador ’24. We get all of our alcohol from Stinson’s Village Store because the owner is able to charge the College, so that’s the only way we can do it money-wise. I actually really enjoy that we get it from Stinson’s, because he’s a small business owner, so it feels nice supporting him.

We go in on Monday afternoons and we pick out 22 cases of alcohol; about half of it is cider. Then, we’ll have two bartenders who are TIPS trained and three people who give out wristbands, and we just host the event and pick fun music. It’s kind of funny — because I’m not a huge beer drinker, I’ve learned a lot more about alcohol through doing Monday Microbrews as people tell me what they like or request drinks.

Has it been difficult for you to run events by yourself this term?

LJ: Weirdly, one of the hardest things for me when organizing trivia is calling and ordering pizza every week. I’m one of those people who just hates calling people on the phone, but it has gotten much easier. 

It does take work, though, and it’s something that I have to do every week, no matter what, even if I have homework. But so many people come up to me and say, “We love Microbrews. We go every Monday; it’s my group’s ‘thing.’” Or people come to me and say that their group comes to trivia every week, no matter how much homework they have. It’s their way to unwind at the end of the week, and an event they look forward to. Anytime I feel that the work is kind of annoying, I just think about the fact that people enjoy these things so much. It’s so cool to me that there are events that such a wide group of people enjoy going to and get passionate about — it’s very validating and I really do appreciate it.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length. 

Correction appended (March 1, 3:55 p.m.): A previous version of this article incorrectly named Johnson's friend, Gui Ramos ’22, who ran Collis trivia by himself. The article has been updated.