Ask Questions, Seek Answers: Video Transcript

Damon A. Williams, PhD (BA Black World Studies and Sociology majors, Miami, 1994; MEd, Miami, 1996) [Senior Vice President for Programs, Training, and Youth Development for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America]: I am the Senior Vice President and Chief Education and Youth Development Officer for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. In that role, I help to shape the education policy and youth development direction for more than 4,000 clubs that are part of our federated network, having an impact on more than 4 million young people across this nation.

For me, the entirety of the journey and the role into success has really been about understanding my passion, where I had potential, and ultimately what my purpose was in life. And, for me, that's always been skewing towards those individuals who are vulnerable, helping individuals to find the pathway to empowerment, and trying to be a difference maker in the lives of those who I come into contact with. From my beginning moments here at Miami University, where I was a student leader, where I thought and tried to be a scholar student, through to my work at other institutions, crescendoing to my current role now at Boys and Girls Clubs of America, that's been the pathway.

My liberal arts degree in Black World Studies and Sociology was essential to me in terms of helping me develop a type of critical, analytical lens that has allowed me to author numerous articles, multiple books, numerous monographs, I've lectured at more than 400 organizations around the world, and the foundation of it oftentimes will find its way back to my liberal arts experience here at Miami University. It was here that I was really first exposed to the idea of a critique and really first exposed to the importance of having burning questions that live inside of you that you want to answer. At the end of the day, research, scholarship, it's all about asking questions and finding answers using different methodologies to get there. The liberal arts experience here at Miami, and specifically, the bachelor's degree in Black World Studies and Sociology, put me on that pathway. I had incredible mentorship and connectivity with the faculty in the College, in addition to other faculty across campus, because the Black World Studies program did have an affiliated faculty group which lived in other areas of the institution. It was having that interdisciplinary experience, I think, that was essential for me to be able to look at the world not just from a sociological perspective, but to look at the world from a historical perspective, from a psychological perspective, from a socio-psychological perspective, and an anthropological perspective, and to be able to ask critical questions for the issues that I was beginning to develop a passion for. From that time forward in my career, I've continued to do the same types of things, ask questions, seek answers, and that has come through in my scholarship through the years. But in addition to that, it also informed the importance of me being an action-oriented doer, someone who always wanted to be an innovator and someone who always wanted to be a disruptor to try to create new possibilities. And so, the liberal arts experience was foundational to developing a particular mindset, a particular way of viewing the world, and that has been translated both into my research but also into my practice as an agent of change.

My memories of Miami are so multidimensional. There are the relationships with faculty mentors where they became not only trusted mentors and guides in my own intellectual journey, but also true friends that were there with comforting words of advice, were there to help pick you up when you fell down, and were there to help steward you to the next destination upon graduation. Those things I will always cherish and think of when I think of Miami.

[February 2014]