Inspired by the contributions of African American scholars, such as Drs. Jewel and James Prestage, Dr. Williams’ has devoted her career in higher education to servant leadership and dismantling barriers to opportunity for groups historically underrepresented in the political system and in higher education. To that end, she has sought to leverage her experiences, expertise and professional relationships to cultivate faculty-student research opportunities, provide culturally competent advising in addition to role modeling professional development behavior and mentoring in the area of undergraduate research and instruction. Dr. Williams’ teaching and mentorship philosophy is based on the belief that the production, acquisition and dissemination of knowledge is a dynamic and reciprocal process where students’ are empowered, their interests are centered and contributions to classroom discourse are inherently valuable and instructive for both their peers and the instructor. Thus students are inspired to think critically and independently, and embrace experiential learning activities where they can periodically test epistemological assumptions beyond the “walls of the University” in ways that maximize their opportunities to apply their knowledge in the real world and contribute to their communities. Beyond the classroom setting, Dr. Williams has sought to cultivate the educational development of undergraduate students through creating innovative curricular and co-curricular opportunities through serving as the University’s first Ethics Bowl Coordinator, coordinating periodic civic engagement experiences, volunteering as the principle coordinator of the study abroad program to Brazil in 2014, taking students to academic conferences, hiring students to serve as research assistants and involving students in research opportunities with community and university partners. Ultimately, this distinctive and multidimensional approach to teaching and mentoring has yielded positive feedback from students, peers and administrators. In fact in 2016, Dr. Williams was selected as an ELEVATE Fellow at the Center for Minority Serving Institutions at the University of Pennsylvania and awarded the “Par Excellence Teaching Award” at Johnson C. Smith University for “her significant continuous and personal contributions to the pursuit of teaching excellence.” Furthermore, her commitment to to culturally competent advising and mentoring in an HBCU setting has, in part, resulted in increased student enrollment and retention in the political science and pre-law programs in addition to interest in graduate and professional study. In fact, her commitment to mentoring undergraduate students in research has resulted in students that have:
Participated in and/or delivered academic presentations at state, regional and national political science conferences !
Competed for and was awarded national and institutional fellowships and grants for undergraduate research and preparation for graduate study (i.e. Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship) in addition to scholarships and fellowships for graduate study
Visited granting institutions to evaluate graduate programs in political science
Participated in internships, summer pre-law academies and study abroad programs
Published and/or prepared manuscripts for publication in the University undergraduate journal
Moreover, in the last five years, several program alumni have gone to graduate programs in Political Communications, Public Administration, Divinity and Political Science at HBCUs and predominately white universities, marking a significant contribution to the pipeline of future PhDs of color in political science. Most recently, a graduate of the political science program, who is undocumented Latino student, was accepted to Yale’s Ph.D. program in political science, marking one of the first students in the program’s history to attend an Ivy League institution. Much like Dr. Jewel L. Prestage , Dr. Williams has also devoted significant professional attention to the National Conference of Black Political Scientists (NCOBPS) as conduit to fostering pathways to the profession and centering the lived political realities of African Americans, particularly black women, in the discipline as scholars and subjects of legitimate political inquiry. Moreover, Dr. Williams is a member of the executive council of the National Conference-of Black Political Scientists, served as the co-chair of a national convening committee, and has routinely serves as a section chair at the national conference. Through her work in NCOBPS, professional advisory boards and University service, Dr. Williams has demonstrated a steadfast commitment to highlighting research agendas that examines how power, or lack thereof, social identities, and political representation shape access to and redistribution
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