Faculty Highlight: Professor Linda Williams

Linda WilliamsProfessor Linda Williams will be retiring from the NC State Department of Social Work after 35 years of dedicated service to our social work community. She has been committed to service throughout her career and has championed efforts to ensuring the success of students. Through administration and leadership, student advising, program and course development, and service to the community, Williams has had a strong and lasting  impact.

2014 MSW candidate Lauren Chesson interviewed Williams for the Department of Social Work’s newsletter.

Professional Pursuits

Linda Williams has been a member of the Wolfpack ever since she began as a student in the Bachelor of Social Work program at NC State many years ago. She entered the profession after serving as a medical secretary at Dorothea Dix Hospital. She completed the program in 3 ½ years and started working with a clinical social worker. Her employment at the NC State Department of Social Work began in 1978 when she took the position of field coordinator. She became the BSW field director when the graduate program started its second year, and since 2007, she has served as BSW program director.

Through the years, Williams has served on a variety of university standing committees and contributed to the development of multiple classes and programs. At the university level, she has served on the university Council on Undergraduate Education, Fee Appeals, Admissions, University Dining, and Student Health committees. She is currently on the Registration, Records and Calendar Committee and the University Housing Advisory Board. Through her service on these committees, she has been able to learn and influence university policy, to ensure that the policies are student friendly and to be sure that policies work to enhance the student experience on campus. At the college level, she has chaired the Courses and Curriculum Committee for many years.

Williams loves teaching Intro to Social Work, a course she developed a long time ago. She has also been responsible for the development of a Spanish language class for social workers and a social work in schools course to meet the school social work standards established by the State Board of Education. For about 10 years, she has administered the Child Welfare Education Program in the Department of Social Work and has brought in more than $1 million in grants for this program. She is most proud of the implementation of her summer study abroad program in Guatemala. Her anthropologist husband encouraged her to develop the program and now it is entering its 11th year. She also developed the school social work undergraduate licensure program into the biggest of its kind in the state.

In addition to her many activities on campus, Williams has pursued a variety of professional commitments in the community. As chair of the Toby Brown Award committee since 1985, she organizes an annual fundraiser for the award. The Toby Brown Award recognizes excellence in the field and academics and involvement in a student organization. She has also been involved with the National Association of Social Workers, holding various offices and board positions over the years. In 2008, she was recognized as the Social Worker of the Year by the North Carolina chapter of the NASW, and currently serves as co-chair of the chapter’s International Practice Unit. She is also involved with the School Social Work Association and the Baccalaureate Program Directors Organization.

Personal Pursuits

Williams’ life is not entirely filled with professional activities. She has quite the creative streak. She makes jewelry, currently using wire and beads. In retirement, she plans to learn how to work with metal, including soldering, cutting, welding and finishing. She also loves to read mysteries – the ones that have something about art, cooking, or books – and is an avid crossword puzzle worker. Her love of travel is impressive. Every spring break, she and her husband take off to some distant location around the world. She has been to Spain, Italy, Morocco, Turkey, Argentina, Peru, Mexico, and of course, Guatemala. One place she dreams of going to is Cambodia to see Angkor Wat.

Words of Wisdom

Asked what she thinks will  change about this career field over the next 10 years, Williams offered a hope that many in the program share. “I really hope that the mental health system changes,” she said. “We’re heading for some major tragedies because of the lack of access to adequate mental health care. When I was coming along in my early education and career, there were mental health centers where anybody could go. You could drop in and get help on an emergency basis. Then you could get medication and ongoing therapy if you needed it. There was a nice mix of a multidisciplinary group of professionals there to help you. I just think that now, if you’re the average person, you’re not going to get mental health care. If you’re working, but you don’t necessarily have good insurance, you’re not going to get mental health care. So I really think we’ve got to do something about that and make it more accessible and affordable.”

Williams shared this advice for those who are in the process of becoming social workers: “You’re always going to have a job. There is never going to be a time when people don’t need a good social worker. Listening fully is really important, rather than trying to figure out what you’re going to say next. Be willing to flow with the interview. … The focus we have on social justice is really important. Be willing to take a look at some of the messages you got growing up about the worth of some groups or individuals. Be willing to think about where those messages came from and whether they are something you can give up. I know that we say you don’t have to change your values, but those values have ways of coming out in various ways. I think being able to answer the really tough question of “Can I work with this person?” is important.”

Williams said she hopes she will be remembered for the many ways she helped others get to where they are today, for the times when she was a student’s adviser or when someone just needed to stop in and talk. I don’t think she will have to worry about her impact. I think she can rest assured that, in many ways, she has changed the world for the better. We wish you well in your retirement Professor Williams. Thank you for the dedicated commitment you have shown our department and our community over the past 35 years.

By Lauren Chesson, 2014 MSW candidate

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