By Kesha Williams
Elizabeth City State University welcomes Dr. Gwendolyn Williams as the new chairwoman of the Department of Education, Psychology and Health.
A native of Monroe, Louisiana, Dr. Gwendolyn Williams earned a B.A. degree from Spelman College. She also holds a master’s degree, a specialist degree, and a Ph.D. from Georgia State University (GSU). Williams says her arrival at ECSU follows years of pursuing her passion to improve students’ ability to read and write well. While teaching middle school students, she was selected to serve on an advisory board that changed her life. She became the co-director, and later the director, of a national writing project. There, she learned from acclaimed educators such as Dr. Robert Probst and Dr. Joanne Wynne, both gurus of the writing process movement. In addition, she acquired valuable leadership lessons from GSU’s Benjamin E. Mays and Dr. Lisa Delpit.
“I was humbled to work with professionals who were accomplished pioneers in the field of literacy. It was a gratifying and optimal learning experience.”
This project allowed Williams and her colleagues to hold a five-week summer institute for classroom teachers to help them make better readers and writers of their pupils. Williams noted that classroom teachers are often better prepared to teach youths how to read, but not how to write well. As a result, some classroom teachers struggle to teach good writing skills to their students. Williams remained involved with the project for 10 years and was instrumental in the creation of better instruction strategies for teachers. The process also included monitoring teachers’ progress after they completed the five-week course.
While working in academia, Williams also served as a professor and as a department chair. In those roles, she traveled to Europe, Africa, Switzerland, Germany, and South Africa to interact with educators and to observe how they dealt with their instructional challenges.
“My travel to other countries provided a lens and an appreciation for what I can do; how to motivate those who want to be motivated. I learned how to get other people involved, because this work of educating students cannot be done by one person. I am the catalyst and the steward for innovation,” Williams said.
Now she looks forward to leading faculty and staff under her supervision at ECSU.
“An HBCU is in a premier position to help you as a faculty member take on that mantle of making sure our students know what they are destined to achieve. An HBCU is an invigorating place because many students have gotten more academic and social support that has allowed them to achieve.”
“From that strain grows the kind of people who can be our future leaders, our movers and shakers… Growth is on all of our agendas. We will do this together.”