Written by Kimberly Cannon, Staff Writer
On Oct. 1, Dr. Gerald Williams was named the interim director of the newly established Department of Student Diversity and Inclusion at Valdosta State University.
Dr. Williams’ motto is to make the day productive; whether it turns out good or bad is irrelevant. Productivity is the goal, and it’s built Dr. Williams a solid resume.
Dr. Williams started his career in higher education at VSU as a Coordinator for Student Life and then became Assistant Director. Dr. Williams left VSU after 6-7 years, but when the opportunity arose to be the President of the newly formed Department of Career Opportunities, he returned to work at his alma mater, taking part as one of the leaders responsible for the growth of that department.
Dr. Williams now works to lay down the foundation of the new Department of Student Diversity and Inclusion, working with LGBTQ, international and other underrepresented students.
The objective is to build connections between groups and assure that VSU provides a welcoming atmosphere for everyone, Dr. Williams said.
During 14 of the 20 years that Dr. Williams has been working on college campuses, he has played a role in diversity planning, either by establishing or building departments, leading diversity councils or writing grants.
In 1993, Dr. Williams came to VSU from Jacksonville, Florida, to be a student. He was working towards an undergraduate degree in pre-law, playing football for two years and participating in organizations such as Black Student League and SGA.
Just as he grew, Dr. Williams wants to watch and help students grow, not only academically, but as a person and citizen of the world as well.
Dr. Williams sees the diversity on campus, and knowing this he said he believes VSU is a prime place for personal growth and experience.
“You can come here and experience a lot of different things and come in contact with different people and the different belief systems and ideologies and philosophies and grow as an individual that is fully developed and not just leave here with a degree,” Dr. Williams said.
With the variety of students on campus, Dr. Williams said he understands the need for this new department.
“We [VSU] don’t have a diversity problem on our campus,” Dr. Williams said. “We are a diverse campus amongst our student population, but [we’re] excited to do the work on the inclusion part,” Dr. Williams said.
Dr. Williams said he believes that no other career could bring him the satisfaction that he gains from this one, where his goal is to help students succeed and to provide an environment that ignites conversations regarding inclusion and acceptance.
“I see my role in this [the Department of Diversity and Inclusion] as to champion the beliefs of all students here, to make sure . . . that all students feel safe, and not just a physical safe, but safe to be who they are, celebrate who they are and hopefully, that everybody will celebrate our individual differences and that be, really, a major thing for our institution,” Dr. Williams said.