Although you may see her smiling and friendly face around campus, you might not really know her or what she does on campus. Dean Mary Beth Williams works hard to support the Wilson College community, and she had to work hard to get here.
Dean Mary Beth Williams is originally from Arkansas. She graduated with an English degree with an emphasis on Creative Writing from Rhodes College, which is in Memphis, Tennessee. After college, she taught high school English for a year in inner city Memphis. While there, the Dean of Rhodes College called her and told her that the college was looking for an Assistant Director of Resident Life. “For two years I worked in Resident Life at Rhodes while I got my master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Memphis.” Dean Williams went to work for the Director of Student Activities at Rhodes College and then became the Director of Student Activities at William Carey College in Mississippi after completing her master’s degree. While she was the Coordinator of Student Activities at the University of Southern Mississippi for six years after a conversation with the Dean of the college, she took Doctorial classes on weekends and nights for four years and eventually got her PhD in Higher Education Administration. After six years at the University of Southern Mississippi, Dean Williams moved to Tennesse and became the Associate Dean of Students at the University of the South and worked there for seven years.
Although Dean Williams completed her master’s degree and had years of college experience under her belt by that time, she struggled her first year of college. “I was the first one in my family to graduate from college, and I almost failed out,” Dean Williams said, “I almost failed my freshmen year because I was lost. I was so lost. We didn’t have First Year Seminar like we do here. I had no idea what I was doing. I knew I wanted to be in college, I just didn’t know how to do it.” Dean Williams continued saying she had some great mentors that really helped her graduate from college and ultimately become a mentor in her college. “It was just kind of a natural fit when I went into higher education because I knew I wanted to help people like me who were lost their freshmen year.”
Dean Williams said there were three things that drew her to working at Wilson College: Barbara Mistick and her leadership, the opportunity to be a part of a change, and Wilson’s commitment to first generation college students. “I heard about Wilson and it was going co-ed and I thought ‘Man, that could be fun,’” Dean Williams said laughing, “I started here in 2014…and have not had a boring day since.”. Throughout her years working at Wilson, Dean Williams’ job has changed and has had new challenges that she had to get accustomed to. When asked what her job consists of now, she said, “If I’m doing my job right, I should listen more than I speak, serve as a student advocate in all matters at the college, and daily empower students to be the best version of themselves. There are many, many layers to each of those responsibilities, and I do the best I can every day.”
Dean Williams said that some of her favorite memories of working at Wilson involve people and food. “I love having students over to my house and cooking for them and having my staff over. A lot of my favorite memories are wrapped into that.” Other favorite memories of Dean Williams’ is the opening of Sarah’s Coffee House after the remodel and the Galea. Dean Williams said that taking a student’s idea and building it into something awesome and watching the campus evolve and grow is her most favorite thing about working at Wilson.
When asked if she had any advice for students during this uncertain time, Dean Williams had a few things to say. “I’ve thought about this a lot,” Dean Williams said, “Ask questions, use your resources, you know, the standard things. The second thing is like a mantra…. grace and grit. Grace is being given the benefit of the doubt whether you deserve it or not… Grit will get you through this. You just need to stick with it.”
Whether you only see her in passing on campus or have daily conversations with her, Dean Williams is in your corner. She understands the struggles of being a college student and how much work it is. She’s your advocate when it comes to anything campus related. If you have any questions or concerns, Dean Williams will be in Sarah’s every other Friday at noon for an hour starting on the 12th of February. “It’s just going to be conversations with me like if you have questions or concerns about COVID, about the semester, about anything,” said Dean Williams. If you would like to contact her, her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.