Williams is the second member of Rawls College to receive the Inclusive Excellence Award in two years.
Margaret L. Williams, dean of the Jerry S. Rawls College of Business, received the Inclusive Excellence Award from the Office of Institutional Diversity on November 18 during the 2021 Celebrate Diversity Awards Banquet.
“Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are areas I care deeply about from both a personal and professional perspective,” said Williams. “Acknowledgement that I may have, in some ways, been able to make a difference is humbling.”
This sentiment was captured by Aliza Wong, professor and associate dean in the Department of History, who presented Williams with the award.
“Those of us who actually live a life of diversity, equity and inclusion know that it is not enough simply to be an activist or ally,” said Wong. “Sometimes we have to step aside and encourage those people who have not been seen or are not as confident. Margaret Williams is that kind of leader.”
Williams credits her parents for instilling such a strong moral compass within herself.
“From an early age, they made it clear to me that every person was to be welcomed, respected and treated fairly. After all, what are DEI initiatives other than a reflection of ‘The Golden Rule'?”
Williams joined Rawls College as dean in 2017 and soon identified fostering diversity and inclusion as a core value of the college. She helped establish the Rawls Diversity and Inclusion Taskforce, which then helped start the Rawls Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. From there, there have been an array of college-wide initiatives and events, including: the annual Rawls Diversity Symposium; frequent “Donuts and Diversity” discussions and presentations each semester; and the Rawls Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Book Club.
However, her proudest accomplishment during her tenure is the role she played in the development of the Rawls Staff Council, an advisory and advocacy leadership group within Rawls College.
“Watching the development of this group and the opportunities it provides for staff leadership has been exciting,” said Williams. “I love the engagement opportunities RSC is providing for our college.”
Though quite a bit has been accomplished since Williams's arrival in 2017, that's not to say it's been an easy path. DEI issues can become polarizing, and navigating those conversations is always challenging.
“These conversations take time, can be difficult and are usually not neatly resolved,” said Williams. “This is an area where most of us are not experts. We're doing the best we can to understand each other's points of view.”
One phrase Williams keeps coming back to is the same one echoed by the Celebrate Diversity Awards Banquet keynote speaker, journalist Elizabeth Vargas: You don't know what you don't know.
“This is no truer than when it comes to understanding others,” said Williams. “When we can adopt that mentality, progress can be made.”
Williams's receiving of the Inclusive Excellence Award also marks the second year in a row that a member from Rawls College earned this award. Kirsten Cook, associate professor in accounting, received the award last spring semester.
“I would not have received the honor last year had Dean Williams not given me the opportunity to serve with Andi Romi as Rawls Co-Director of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion,” said Cook. “Dean Williams is the driving force behind the progress that our college has made on identifying and addressing DEI issues, beginning with establishing DEI as one of the five core values in our Rawls strategic plan during her first summer as dean.”
That Rawls College members have received the Excellence in Diversity Award is a feat not lost on Cook or Williams and helps signify a key pattern within Rawls College.
“Rawls is a first mover at Texas Tech regarding DEI,” said Cook. “Many of our initiatives, such as forming a college DEI committee, conducting a climate survey and hosting educational sessions have been borrowed and emulated by other schools and colleges across campus.”
“The fact that multiple members of the Rawls community have been recognized in this way means that we are walking the talk. We are making this a priority which helps make our college a better place to work, study and learn,” said Williams.