Damon L. Williams, Jr., Joins UK Office for Institutional Diversity

by Savoy Staff

The University of Kentucky is pleased to welcome Damon L. Williams, Jr., UK’s new associate vice president in the Office for Institutional Diversity.

Damon L. Williams, Jr. joins us from Northwestern University where he served as the associate dean of diversity and inclusion and the chief diversity officer of the graduate school. During the past five years, the office grew in size and scope under Williams’ tenure. He worked tirelessly to expand and enhance the recruitment, retention and engagement initiatives of the graduate school, resulting in a record number of underrepresented minoritized students, first-generation students, women students in STEM and those who identify as LGBTQIA+ joining Northwestern’s newest cohort of incoming PhD and professional students.    As a testament to his steadfast commitment to student success, Williams has volunteered his time to coach and mentor many undergraduate and graduate students, post-doctoral trainees, peers and mentors. He has helped these scholars and colleagues navigate the challenges of university life and the social injustices present in the world. Northwestern University credits Williams with many of the advancements in diversity and inclusion at the program level due to the meaningful relationships he nurtured and the collaborative approach he took to educate others and champion progress. True to his collaborative style, Williams was integral in forming Northwestern’s Graduate School Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council (including graduate students, professional students, post-doctoral trainees, faculty, department chairs, deans and academic and university administrators), which is responsible for providing feedback and guidance on diversity and inclusion plans and initiatives focused on graduate and professional students, postdoctoral trainees and other key constituency groups.

Among many others, Williams’ accomplishments while at Northwestern include:

  • Implementing graduate school-wide enrollment management plans that drove diverse recruitment practices, which increased the first-year classes to 27%, the highest in the history of Northwestern University for BIPOC and minoritized students.
  • Establishing the Let’s Talk Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Dialogue Series, which galvanized the campus around shared responsibility to foster collectivity through critical dialogue and learning. The series has featured more than 30 high-level national and international figures.
  • Establishing the graduate school’s Social Justice Mini-Grant Program, a catalyst to create innovative strategies to ensure the implementation of equity and diversity goals across the institution.
  • Establishing the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council (DIAC), responsible for accelerating enrollment management, attraction, recruitment, retention, engagement and success of BIPOC and minoritized students and post-doctoral trainees.

As a competent scholar-practitioner, Williams has worked in many leadership roles supporting inclusive excellence in higher education and for-profit organizations respectively including Georgia State University, Emory University, Phillip Morris USA (Altria) and Verizon Wireless. He has a strong history of developing strong partnerships and thriving pipelines, which serve to attract, recruit and retain underrepresented minoritized students in graduate education and the workforce.

UK Vice President for Institutional Diversity Katrice Albert said, “Damon is a national leader who will bring to the state of Kentucky, the city of Lexington, UK and to the Office of Institutional Diversity the necessary energy, creativity and innovation needed to accelerate access, inclusion and belonging. Because of his bias toward results and outcomes, he will help all of us advance Kentucy through his strategic thinking and strategic action. We are all delighted and thrilled that he will join the Big Blue Nation.”

Williams’ work has been recognized nationally by Black Enterprise Magazine, Diverse Issues in Higher Education and he has received many honors and awards including Xavier University’s Louisiana Alumni of the Year Award and Northwestern University’s Penny Warren Service Award. Williams serves on several national boards including the National Conference for Race and Ethnicity (NCORE), Medical Moguls, Hill Harper’s “Making Your Destiny” and has been named to the Board of Trustees of the Social Science Research Council. He is a member of the National Black MBA Association, the National Urban League and the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE). Most recently Williams was selected to be a panelist at the White House’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) Conference in September 2022. He was chosen to serve the Wildcat family in this important role after a highly competitive, national search and review process, recognizing his outstanding commitment to inclusive excellence, access, opportunity and advancement for all.

Williams earned a bachelor of science degree in psychology from Xavier University of Louisiana, a master’s in marketing from Tulane University, a Master of Business Administration from Fontbonne University and he is a doctoral student at Louisiana State University studying higher education administration. He holds additional certificates from Emory University and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Regarding his work, Williams says, “My scholarship and work in diversity, equity, inclusion and justice intentionally moves us away from the binary, often limiting, concepts of human difference to ‘excellence expressing itself through the intersections of perspectives and lived experiences.’ This forward thinking and futuristic inclusive excellence framework centers DEIJ squarely in institutional and human values, permitting everyone to engage in shaping meaning and belonging. Strategic diversity aims to transcend the feelings of otherness by tapping into and uniting the excellence in each person.”

It is clear that Williams is a respected, committed and innovative leader in diversity and equity work. Starting on Sept. 1, 2022, he will undoubtedly accelerate and elevate our unceasing mission to ensure we are an institution where everyone feels safe, supported and afforded the same opportunities to succeed.

We are a powerful community because of our people. And, just as he has done for nearly 15 years in his previous roles, Williams will make us even stronger.

Please join us in welcoming UK’s new associate vice president, Damon L. Williams, Jr. With his help, UK’s Office for Institutional Diversity will continue to show UK, Kentucky, the nation and the world, what is wildly possible.

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