Desha Williams, PhD

Dean of the College of Education and Social Work at West Chester University of Pennsylvania
HERS Institute Alumna, Class of 2019

Dr. Desha Williams has been recently named Dean of the College of Education and Social Work at West Chester University in Pennsylvania.  She will begin her new role in July, 2020.  Since 2018, Dr. Williams has been serving as the chair of Georgia College’s Teacher Education Program and professor of mathematics education.  An important area of focus within her role as chair centered on mentorship in teacher education.  Dr. Williams promoted a research agenda that centers on student mentorship for online teacher preparation programs.  As a 2019 graduate of HERS Leadership Institute at Bryn Mawr, we asked Dr. Williams a few questions regarding how her experience with HERS advanced her career:

What did you value most during your time with HERS?

There is so much that I valued in my HERS experience: the sessions were customized to the needs of the attendees, the faculty altered the scheduled based on the needs of the attendees, and the sisterhood that was developed due to the small numbers of attendees.


How was the HERS experience different than other leadership development organizations (or activities) you’ve participated in?

The things that I valued most are the same experiences that made HERS different: customization and the networking.


Did you ever picture yourself in the role you are in today, before HERS?

No! Before HERS, my career goal was to become an associate dean of assessment and accreditation in a college of education.


How did HERS impact your leadership trajectory?

HERS helped me to think about functionality instead of title. My leadership trajectory is now towards decision-making leadership positions instead of purely operational. In decision-making position, I can still impact operations while also impacting change.


What is your personal leadership style?

My leadership style is ever growing and changing. I have learned that style is determined by situation, but at the core of who I am, collaborative leadership is my foundation.


What advice would you give to a woman in higher education who wants to advance their career?

I would advise woman who want to advance their career to establish a mentor board who have various skill sets and varied experiences. Reach out to your network and listen often. I would also advise them not to be afraid to admit mistakes or to admit they do not know something.


Rutgers is a HERS partner and sends women leaders to the HERS regularly. How would you characterize the support you received from your institution?   

Georgia College is extremely supportive of HERS. Georgia College sends someone each year. We recently had a HERS alumna gathering at Georgia College. There were at least 10 women in attendance (I didn’t actually count). In addition to the university’s support, some deans chose to use portions of their college budget to send more women. My dean, Joseph Peters, supported my attendance. Currently, including me, there are five HERS alumna in the College of Education.