Tara Williams to become new Honors College dean

Photo+courtesy+of+Tara+Williams
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Tara Williams to become new Honors College dean

Photo courtesy of Tara Williams

Photo courtesy of Tara Williams

Photo courtesy of Tara Williams

Photo courtesy of Tara Williams

Rebecca Griesbach | @rebach97, News Editor

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Tara Williams, associate dean of the Honors College at Oregon State University, has been named dean of the UA Honors College, effective March 1.

“Dr. Williams will be a tremendous asset to The University of Alabama,” Provost Kevin Whitaker wrote in an email to UA faculty and students. “In her role at OSU, she helped expand international opportunities for their Honors College students and oversaw the development and expansion of programs to continually attract premier students to the honors experience.”

Earlier this month, The Crimson White covered the presentations of each finalist vying for the position. You can read the full article here, or keep reading to find out more about Williams’ background and plans for the University. 

ABOUT WILLIAMS

Williams has served as associate dean of the honors college at Oregon State University (OSU) since 2013 and is a full-time English professor with a focus in medieval literature. Given the 15-year history of the UA Honors College, she framed her vision in terms of the next 15 years, focusing on the goals she would accomplish in this timeline.

Williams is active in Honors Education at Research Universities, a biennial conference for educators working with high-achieving students at major research universities. A Southern university has yet to host the conference, and Williams sees this as an opportunity for the University.

Williams’ philosophy focused on a commitment to serving students, faculty, the university and the surrounding community and state. She pointed to community outreach and leadership development programs currently offered on campus, like the Blackburn Institute and University Fellows Experience, as testaments to this philosophy.

Williams said she views an honors college as an incubator where things can be tried out and scaled up to affect the entire campus community, but this doesn’t happen without constant evaluation, innovation and intentional design. She described the honors experience at OSU as holistic, including living-learning communities and social events entirely distinct from the academic aspect of the honors college.

“For this to work, it has to be founded on an inclusive community,” Williams said.

Williams noted the increased impact an honors education can make on diverse student groups. Faculty and students at the OSU honors college collaborated to produce an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion statement to integrate into courses. The statement is included on the syllabi of all honors courses, and instructors are encouraged to incorporate it into class dialogue.

She said she believes honors courses should be characterized by a co-directed design that gives students a sense of purpose and provides them with meaningful involvement, multi-level engagement and experiential opportunities that allow students to apply knowledge in a real-world context.

Williams’ vision is to “provide a transformative honors experience for a diverse community of University of Alabama students and national leadership in public honors education.” After observing Alabama’s campus community firsthand, Williams said she would build a strategic plan grounded in the mission, values and pillars of the University. This plan would highlight opportunities in DEI, research, alumni engagement and fundraising.