COLA Connections Newsletter: Fall 2016

COLA Welcomes New Associate Dean

In July, LaVerne McQuiller Williams was appointed as the new Associate Dean for the College of Liberal Arts. Previously serving as the chair for the Department of Criminal Justice, LaVerne has deep ties to RIT.  She is an alumna, having graduated from our Criminal Justice program in 1992. After earning her law degree from Albany Law School, she then served as an Assistant District Attorney in Rensselaer County. In 1996, she returned to RIT as a visiting professor while also pursuing a master’s degree in Criminal Justice at Buffalo State College. In 2010, LaVerne earned her PhD in Sociology from the University of Buffalo.

You’ve spent most of your career involved in Criminal Justice. What drew you to that area?

I am drawn to impactful social and justice issues including mass imprisonment, racial profiling, and issues that impact people of color and women.  Since I began my career in criminal justice, other controversial topics have now come to the forefront. These topics include police-community relations, privatization of prisons, restorative justice, human trafficking and interpersonal violence.  However, the core of my research, and topics most important to me include interpersonal violence, specifically, sexual assault, physical abuse and emotional abuse in underrepresented populations.  

Switching gears in your career, what drew you to the position of Associate Dean?

Prior to taking on this position, I served as department chair of Criminal Justice from 2010 to June of 2016. The Associate Dean position became available and I saw that it would provide the perfect platform for me to make a larger impact on the direction of the college.  One of the advantages I’ve enjoyed first as a student and then as a faculty member is watching the changes that have occurred at RIT and particularly in the College of Liberal Arts over the years.  While I believe that I had some small influence in that change, specifically where the department of criminal justice was concerned, I strongly felt that I could and wanted to do more. In fact, I actually enjoy administration so being an Associate Dean has now granted me the opportunity to make a more widespread and hopefully positive impact. 

What has been the most challenging part of the job so far?

We constantly strive for improvement, and inevitably, this brings about challenges.  Again, I took this position knowing that if I wanted to make a difference, I would have to accept the responsibility that goes along with growth – and I welcome those challenges.  With that being said, I haven’t had that many challenges yet since I have only been in the position for a little over a month.

What is the most enjoyable part of the job?

Actually, most of the job is enjoyable.  There is a vibrant and contagious energy in the College of Liberal Arts. I love being able to work with faculty, students, and staff on a range of issues and initiatives.

What advice would you give students in COLA (or at RIT)?

I would say to take advantage of the numerous opportunities that are available. This includes taking electives outside of your degree program, joining different clubs, engaging in the arts, or participating in study abroad and/or internships and co-ops, even if they’re not required for your degree. I think exposing yourself to an array of different areas and experiences, particularly those you are not uncomfortable with, will lead to the most growth.

How do you define success?

Doing something that is enjoyable and that you are passionate about.

What does leadership mean to you?

There are so many aspects to leadership that I don’t believe it can be categorized into a few simple sentences.  However, for me, leadership entails the ability to move people towards a common goal.  Sometimes of course, this is nearly an impossible task.  But, getting people to understand what’s in the best interests of everyone will sometimes have to supersede any individual or personal goals.  Here is where you grow as the leader: you must understand that it requires patience, understanding, being willing to compromise, and, be willing to say: “no: I’m sorry, but we cannot implement your initiative at this time.”  There will be many days of course where you’ll feel challenged beyond your emotional capacity, but real leaders find a way to keep moving forward. 

What are three words that describe you?

Humorous, resilient, and engaged.

What is your proudest moment?

Great question. Many moments come to mind and so there isn’t just one.  First, I’d have to say the birth of my children.  Raising my two children has given me purpose beyond anything I ever could have imagined (sometimes, I have three children if you include my husband - and that’s where the real challenge has come). 

Second, academically, it would be receiving the Eisenhart Award for Outstanding Teaching at RIT.  One of the only draw backs to being in administration is that your classroom time is limited: I truly enjoy teaching.  It provides me an opportunity to interact with the students and this is exceptionally rewarding for me.

Finally, I’m very proud of being selected for the American Council on Education Fellows Program. The program is very competitive and prestigious. The purpose of the fellowship is to shadow a president at another university for a year to help prepare one for upper administration.

What is your favorite pastime?

This might shock people, but I love flipping houses! I absolutely love it. I’ve completed several projects including dry-walling, flooring, carpeting, even some ceiling tiling.  I am not a fan of plumbing nor electrical, but I’m very much interested in all other aspects including design. 

What would you say are some interesting things about you?

I am a first generation college student. I was raised in Buffalo and yes: I’m a huge Buffalo Bills fan. I met my husband at RIT and he is also a Criminal Justice alumnus.  He currently teaches as a lecturer in the department.

I really enjoy camping, even though no one in my family goes with me anymore (yes: that means you Joe). I also love old sci-fi movies including Planet of the Apes, the Day the Earth Stood Still and Invasion of the Body Snatchers: those are wonderful classics.  I also enjoy Star Trek: Next Generation: You could call me a closet trekkie.

Top 3 favorite Movies

Schindler’s List, The Joy Luck Club, and Casablanca.

I also love superhero movies! They haven’t really made it to my top 3 but Superman 2 -the Richard Donner cut – is probably in my top 5.