For John Williams, New York City was always the goal. Coming from institutions in Florida and Georgia, he knew that he eventually wanted to move to New York City, specifically Harlem, and transition from being a professor to an administrator. “I came to Teachers College already having a Ph.D. and two master’s degrees in particular subject areas: geography and history. My goal was to gain and fine-tune these leadership competencies — to make a jump from being seen as just a professor, a researcher, and a scholar, to being seen as an administrator.”

“What you get from TC is valuable. You can see the tuition dollars in use. You can see the Student Affairs’ and the service fees in use.”

John Williams, M.A. ’19, Higher & Postsecondary Education

After experiencing the ramifications of consolidation at his university, Williams was left looking for his next steps. He found this in the Higher and Postsecondary Education (HPSE) program at TC, where he could pursue his passion for student affairs — something he developed in his undergraduate years at Florida A&M University. Williams had participated in a variety of student leadership organizations, including student government, where he was able to put on events, manage budgets, and craft an experience for his fellow students. When asked how he knew TC would be the best fit to begin the next stage of his career, he said. “I viewed this as a window of opportunity to finally make it to New York City, and it gave me time to make the change from just teaching to administration. So, TC had exactly what I needed.” 

After being accepted to his program in March 2018, Williams immediately signed up for the HPSE internship fair, where he matched with his first-choice placement. Since he was already in the city and the office had an immediate need for help, he was able to begin working before starting classes. “The internship mirrored the whole curriculum. I was actually advising students and working within a particular budget.”

Not only did the internship shape his career, but his professors had a huge impact as well. One stood out in particular. “My first semester, I had a class with Bill Baldwin,” Baldwin himself worked on rising through the administrative ranks, eventually becoming the Interim Provost at TC. Williams says Baldwin’s class and content were what he came to TC precisely to learn. “This is who I want to be. I want to be that administrator who has the expertise in doing it, but then can also come and teach it.” 

To all future and current students, John Williams has one piece of advice: Take advantage of everything. While graduate education can be expensive, Williams insists that the rewards are worthwhile. “What you get from TC is valuable. You can see the tuition dollars in use. You can see the Student Affairs’ and the service fees in use. There was no short supply of free food, free T-shirts — I still have a cup from the Taste of Harlem. So take advantage of all of these things.”

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