Recently appointed Claflin University Panthers STEPS Director Dr. Mary Williams has quite a large family which includes a total of nine brothers and sisters for starters. Unfortunately for her, an overwhelming majority of her family reside in South Carolina while she has lived in Florida the last decade.
From the Sunshine State, Williams, who is originally from Williamsburg County, keenly observed the work of Kingstree native Claflin President Dr. Henry N. Tisdale. Over the years, she became quite impressed with Tisdale's progressive vision for the institution and the tremendous strides it has made during his tenure.
Williams wanted to come back home. Claflin had developed a unique program called “Panther STEPS (Students in Transition Engaged and Prepared for Success)” designed to improve first-year student learning and achievement. Claflin needed someone to implement and direct the program. And that's where Williams fit perfectly into the equation.
“I couldn't ask for a better place to be,” said Williams, who previously served as vice president for student affairs at Florida Memorial College in Miami Gardens, Florida.
Panthers STEPS was developed as Claflin's Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) during the reaffirmation process by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools last year. The five-year plan calls for a multi-faceted approach to heighten freshman grades and retention rates by enhancing entry level courses, creating more orientation classes, engaging students in community service and better preparing them for academic success.
With a deep background in both academic and student affairs leadership positions in higher education, Williams says she has the vision, strategic planning skills and analytic ability to see the goals of Panthers STEPS to complete fruition.
“I hope to affirm that these strategies are effective in transitioning students through their matriculation at Claflin,” Williams said. “Panther STEPS will increase graduation and retention rates and enable our students to be accepted into top graduate and professional schools.”
Her first-year plans are to set benchmarks to measure success of the plan, work in concert with faculty and hire a dynamic support staff.
“We will develop mechanisms that will enhance all students' critical thinking, math and writing ability,” she said. “I am going to mobilize the entire campus to support this plan to ensure our students are adequately prepared to become leaders with global perspectives.”
Williams has more than 20 years of higher education experience. At Florida Memorial University, she was also dean of the School of Arts and Science, division chair and assistant professor of sociology. She has worked at institutions in Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and Virginia. Her grant writing has garnered more than $2.5 million in funding. Additionally, Williams is a private education consultant in a variety of higher education areas.
Williams has one daughter, Andrea, and a grandchild, Skyler. She enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, tennis and cooking.