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Paying it Forward

April 06, 2010

Dr. Alaric Williams appreciates the support he received in his quest for a doctorate and on the road to a teaching career, so he is paying it forward.

The assistant professor in the ASU Department of Curriculum and Instruction had aspirations from an early age to earn a doctorate, something most people wouldn’t expect from a child in a small town like Stamps, Ark.

“When I was in the first or second grade,” Williams said, “I would write ‘Dr. Williams’ on my video games.  I thought while growing up, because my parents said I had to go as far as I could, that everyone had to do that.”

“My faith is the first thing my parents taught me, and then it was the need for education,” he said.  “I like working with the younger kids because I want them to see that maybe someone like them can be successful.”

Born and raised in Stamps, about 35 miles east of Texarkana, Williams went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology, a master’s in counseling and a doctorate in higher education-supervision, curriculum and instruction at Texas A&M University-Commerce.

Recently, he elevated his and ASU’s name in his field when he was named national chair of the Student Affairs Partnering With Academic Affairs knowledge community, a sub-group of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA), after two years as a member and two years on the ASU faculty.

“We do a series of conference calls on best practices and things that we are doing at our respective institutions,” Williams said.  “I’m really excited about being elected to the office.  I think it’s a good way to get Angelo State’s name out there.  A lot of people don’t know where San Angelo is and have never heard of Angelo State, so I think it’s a good thing for the university.”

“One of the things we did this past semester here in the College of Education was implement graduate student orientation,” he added.  “You hear about orientation for undergraduate and transfer students, but not for graduate students.  A lot of the time, graduate students get lost in the shuffle and don’t understand the simplest things in regards to graduate school assignments and class expectations.”

Williams said he told his NASPA colleagues about the program and they are interested in what ASU is doing.

“They said ‘wow.  We want to hear more about this,’” he said, “and things I hear at the convention, I pass along here to my ASU colleagues.”

Outside of class, Williams gives his time to support young people though advisory roles.

“I want the students to know I’m a big supporter of theirs,” he said.  “I’m a faculty adviser for the Black Student Alliance, a new student organization.   I also serve as co-adviser for the Student Government Association.”

Williams is not just involved with youth on campus, but also in the community and at his church.

“I just became a Big Brother in the Big Brothers and Big Sisters,” he said.  “I’m also working with the House of Faith conducting research on their results when students come and are participating and how that affects them down the road.  Are they successful in school?  I’m looking at the results of what they do and how it affects students in their families and their communities.”

At church, Williams serves as deacon, director of youth education and trustee.

“I like knowing that I can make a difference, and not for self-glory, but knowing I can be someone else’s light. I can help someone get to where I am.  My purpose here is to serve others.  That’s what I do.”

Another area of interest for Williams is how African-American men deal with counseling.

“A lot of men, especially African-American men, don’t favor counseling and tend to shy away from it,” he said.  “It’s not just the feeling that they are not macho or that they’re unmanly.  It’s also a feeling of not being able to trust the person they are talking with.  In my dissertation, I looked at African-American males who were enrolled in predominately white institutions and others who were enrolled in predominately black institutions.”

He found it made little difference whether his subjects talked to black counselors or white counselors.  They shied away equally from counseling on campus.

“I discovered that their religion played a role in their deciding to speak to someone,” Williams said.  “They are more comfortable talking with their ministers.  I also found that they are even more comfortable talking to friends in a social setting, like a fraternity or the barber shop.  They would open up more.”

Williams is studying the effects on research participants’ attitudes toward other races after taking an online diversity course and incorporated it into his Social and Cultural Influences in Learning course.

“We cover things like standardized tests biases, racism and stereotypes that may or may not be present,” he said.  “I had one student who was a teacher in public school who said after taking the course that it really opened her eyes.

“Every teacher in the school system needs to take this course,” she said.

Williams said he was proud and excited that she had that attitude after taking it.

In his spare time, Dr. Williams loves spending time with his wife, Andrea, and their three boys, Michael, Alaric Jr. and Aaron.

“I like to spend time riding bikes, walking, going to the park and just having family movie night most of the time,” he said.  “My wife and kids were my biggest support group while completing my doctorate. I am more than thankful I had them in my corner.”