Meet the UA professor named a top-15 emerging scholar

Krystal Williams’ research delves into the Black academic experience, both in STEM and at HBCUs.

Krystal Williams, a UA assistant professor of higher education, was named a top emerging scholar by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, a magazine about diversity in American higher education. 

Jamal Watson, editor of the magazine, said that they accepted nominations to compile a list of the top 15 emerging scholars under 40. The publication received more than 300 nominations this year, and Williams said she was “surprised and honored” to be named to the list. 

“[Williams] received probably four or five nominations from individuals from all over the country who were deeply impacted by her work, followed her scholarship and just believe that she deserves national recognition in our publication,” said Watson.

Williams said her research explores two complementary topics: the experience of marginalized communities in STEM fields and the contributions of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to higher education. 

After attending Clark Atlanta University for her bachelors and masters in mathematics, she later earned her doctorate in higher education with a concentration in public policy at the University of Michigan. She said her experience at an HBCU influenced her research. 

Watson said he believes Williams’ experiences as a student at an HBCU “helped to shape the way in which she thinks about some of the issues that impact Black students at historically Black colleges and universities.” 

“I really am interested in people like myself,” Williams said. “So I’m interested in Black students.  I’m interested in their experiences at HBCUs, and I’m interested in their experiences in STEM areas.”

Williams has worked for nonprofit organizations like the Center for Naval Analyses, a federally funded research and development center, and the United Negro College Fund, which funds scholarship for Black students and HBCUs.  

Steve Mobley, an assistant professor of higher education and longtime friend of Williams, said that this type of recognition really matters at the University since the administration is “still reconciling their difficult paths with regard to race and racism.”  

“Having students see that there is a Black faculty [member], especially a Black woman, that is thriving and able to do her work here,” Mobley said, “I think that is just amazing.”

Williams said she wants her research to “shape policies to help expand opportunities for marginalized students.” In the long-term, she said she hopes to receive tenure, write a book and open a research center for STEM issues on campus. 

Her work has been published in the American Educational Journal which Mobley said “is one of, if not the, hardest journals to get into.”

Williams said she is currently working with six students on three different papers and research projects.

If any undergraduate or graduate students are interested in doing research with Williams, they can email her at, visit her website or connect with her via the UA faculty and undergraduate student research database. 

Visit this website for more information about research opportunities that Dr. Williams currently has available for undergraduate students.