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“I am very motivated and very driven to contribute. That’s what I try to do in my scholarship, as a dean and as a social worker,” he says. “If you are not contributing, you become irrelevant.”

James Herbert Williams, Graduate School of Social Work

The son of “working-class, blue-collar people,” James Herbert Williams, dean of the Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW), was one of the first members of his family to attend college and the only one to have earned a PhD.

That’s his personal context, shaped by a family legacy that values hard work and embodies resilience.

Context figures prominently in Williams’ scholarship, much of which focuses on African-American families and youth, particularly boys and young men. He studies their context and the impact of violence, poverty and dysfunction on their prospects. He then tries to discover how to alter, for the better, the trajectory of lives marred by instability.

The first recipient of the Milton Morris Endowed Chair, Williams also works on a United Nations/GSSW-sponsored conflict-resolution initiative in Kenya, helping the members of various tribes learn to peacefully address issues arising from their changing context.

“I am very motivated and very driven to contribute. That’s what I try to do in my scholarship, as a dean and as a social worker,” he says. “If you are not contributing, you become irrelevant.”

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