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Faculty Spotlight: Jenifer Wolf Williams

By on July 10, 2019 in Spotlights with 0 Comments

ACU Spotlight - Jennifer Williams

After making her mark as an adjunct faculty member, Jenifer Williams recently joined ACU Online’s full-time staff. Her history with the university extends well beyond her two years as an adjunct professor, however — she’s also a proud ACU alum. Since graduating from the university with her Master of Science in Pre-Clinical Psychology, she has developed an in-depth understanding of post-traumatic leadership, refugee empowerment, and cultural ambassadorship. Her diverse background has allowed her to play an integral role in ACU’s online Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership program. Passionate, inquisitive, and determined to build connections in a fractured world, Jenifer inspires students and fellow professors alike.

A Diverse Background — And a Passion for Broadening Horizons

A Kansas City native, Jenifer Williams first pursued her interest in psychology as a student at Oklahoma Christian University. Shortly after graduation, she enrolled at ACU, where she studied Pre-Clinical Psychology at the graduate level.

After graduating from ACU, Jenifer and her husband moved to Honduras. During their three years abroad, they were closely connected with the Baxter Institute, a prominent Church of Christ preacher training school. She also worked in counseling at this time. Her early efforts in counseling granted her a greater appreciation for the plight that refugees face; several of her clients had escaped from war in other Central American countries.

Upon returning to the United States, Jenifer and her family settled in Dallas, where she was able to continue pursuing her passion for refugee counseling. She worked with the Centers for Survivors of Torture and the Partners for Refugee Empowerment. While residing in Dallas, she earned her Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership from the University of La Verne.

Jenifer’s adventures in teaching began while she was residing in Claremore, Oklahoma. She began teaching undergraduate psychology courses at Roger State University — and she realized that she took great satisfaction in helping students expand their thinking. Specifically, she enjoyed showing students the clear connections between textbook information and their daily lives. She quickly discovered that she could benefit from broadening her sociological perspective, so she conducted extensive research in post-trauma leadership. Her insights from this research effort have played into her current work in Organizational Leadership with ACU.

Jenifer’s Return to ACU: Leadership in Diverse Contexts

These days, ACU is more than Jenifer’s alma mater; it’s all about family. Her husband (whom she met while attending ACU) is also a professor — and teaches in the same program. Jenifer loves being back at the school that began both her career and her marriage. She explains that it “feels like coming back full circle, really, to be working at ACU again.”

Today, Jenifer plays an integral role in an ACU Online course known as Leadership in Diverse Contexts, a class she designed and continuously updates with current events to maintain relevance for the class and her students.

Jenifer’s overarching goal as the course lead for Leadership in Diverse Contexts? To encourage students to work more effectively across cultures. This could mean breaking barriers between various demographic groups, religious identities, or political affiliations. Jenifer hopes to help students think critically about how they interact with these groups, and ideally, determine how they can reach out in a meaningful manner.

In addition to Leadership in Diverse Contexts, Jenifer has taught an introductory course that delves into leadership and positive psychology, as well as a highly regarded qualitative research course.

Throughout her experience with ACU, Jenifer has felt supported and connected every step of the way. She’s excited to work with equally passionate individuals who want to help “grow leaders, who have this idea of building communities, and building organizations that are welcoming, that are pro-social, that are beneficial to all players.”

Highlighting the Role of Social Science in Immigration and Other Divisive Matters

Jennifer Williams ACU Online
[Jenifer greeting asylum seekers after they were released from detention.]

Jenifer believes that social science insights can play a huge role in how we address difficult, yet relevant topics — especially when interacting with those who hold considerably different viewpoints. Her unique ability to foster insightful, yet respectful discussions was perhaps best exemplified by a recent panel discussion she organized at her church. Called Journeys to Freedom: Immigrant Stories, this panel brought unique and valuable perspectives to the community.

Jenifer always plans carefully to ensure the most impactful exposure to new concepts. With Journeys to Freedom, she began by providing information via table displays. A few weeks later, she followed up with a panel discussion, in which panelists from Rwanda, Syria, and Mexico shared their experiences. The panel discussion also featured input from Dallas’ Human Rights Initiative director, who offered a legal perspective.

Currently, the bulk of her efforts as a volunteer involve the Human Rights Initiative. She’s also heavily involved with Justice For Our Neighbors — and was recently elected to the board of directors.

As professor and volunteer, Jenifer always seeks to act on her core belief that it’s possible to accommodate everybody’s needs, even in today’s divisive climate. Jenifer explains, “I’m confident that in the Christian community and in academic circles, we can find ways to communicate and to meet the different needs of groups who are coming from very different places.”

For more information on how ACU Online’s extraordinary faculty members can help you pursue your career goals, contact us at 855-219-7300 or acu.edu/online.

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