Campus Life / Featured

Meet the Spartan faculty: Dr. Danielle Williams

By Kingsley Hunter

NORFOLK, VA — Faculty are seen as the backbone of an institution, as they deal with the responsibility to help students reach their potential not only academically but personally. At Norfolk State University’s Student Support Services Center, located in the James A. Bowser Building, faculty, such as the center’s director Dr. Danielle Williams, are ready and willing to help guide students to strive for success. 

Willams grew up in Norfolk, graduated from Norview High School, and then attended fellow in-state historically black college and university (HBCU) Virginia State University, despite her mother being a Spartan. 

“I did not want to go to Norfolk State University because it felt like home, Norfolk State was a part of my life and it was always around me, we went to every game and at the time, I did not want to go to Norfolk State University,” Williams said. 

After Williams graduated from Virginia State, her passion for helping students became apparent. She then began teaching English to seventh and eighth graders at Charles City Middle School, located about an hour and a half away from her home. But as the saying goes, “You will always find your way back home.” Williams found herself pursuing a graduate degree in Media and Communications at Norfolk State.

“I came back home, moved in with my mom, and I went to Norfolk State. I fell in love with Norfolk State for the first time. I fell in love with Norfolk State three times,” Williams said. 

Williams highlighted the friendships and connections she made while studying in graduate school and praised the Media and Communications program. She worked for 13NewsNow as an Associate Producer and other communication professional jobs while attending graduate school. At this point, Williams was at a crossroads between working in the communications field and helping students reach their full potential. 

“What am I enjoying the most throughout my career so far? Working in higher education while helping students get into college, I love that look and feeling when I introduce this world of the university to students. That is what brought me back to Norfolk State, and that is the second time that I fell in love with Norfolk State,” Williams said. 

Williams took a leadership role at Norfolk State. While she spoke highly of her new position and the great people surrounding her, she decided that she wanted to continue her education.

“I remember when I was working at Virginia State as an admissions counselor and I remember sitting at my office and I laughed out loud and said, ‘God, they wouldn’t be able to handle it if I had a doctorate.’ It was just a passing thought; I never did anything past that. I had no plans returning to school at that point,” Williams said. 

The current Student Success Center director earned her Doctorate at NOVA Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., while working at Norfolk State as a full-time faculty member. Williams spoke on how many transitions happened in her personal life while working on her doctorate and continuing employment at Norfolk State, including relationships and entering motherhood. 

Williams briefly left the world of classrooms, pencils, and computers and stepped into the world of hospital beds, scrubs, and gurneys. She transitioned to working in healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic, further proving her passion for helping not only students but people in general. 

Dr. Williams has accomplished a lot in her career, from graduating college three times over, ultimately earning a doctorate, and helping countless students in the classroom. Still, three words are the one lesson that she wants to instill in people who are trying to make it in life. 

“Purpose over paper. You really must chase purpose and not paper. You run up against a brick wall whenever you try to chase a dollar. But if you are going after what you are truly passionate about and what makes your heart skip a beat, then you will win every time,” Williams said. 

She credits her experiences along the way as what brought her to fall in love with the green and gold again for the third time. She returned in spring 2022 and she vocalized her feelings about her return.

“I am like a kid in the candy store every single day. Number one is that I know I am working at my purpose. I know that this is what I am called to do, I am called to these students, I am called to be at this place to make it better. This is my life’s work. I am a part of their life’s journey. And it took a while. I am so grateful to be here now, and the third time’s the charm.”

Since returning to Norfolk State on Jan. 10, Williams has had nothing but positive things to say about being back at the place where she earned her master’s degree. She discussed what a typical day of work looks like being the director of the student support services. 

“I love that my days aren’t really the same. Kids come in and this is a place that truly belongs to our students. A typical day for me, I come in and we have some students who come here daily. I check in with my tutors and make sure everyone is okay. It’s just meetings and meetings with students. I also try to not just stay in the office. I need to hear and see what their needs are. How can I influence for the better after what I gathered today,” Williams said. 

As an educator, Williams prides herself on serving the students at Norfolk State University with anything they need. Williams articulated how she approaches students who confide in her and need help, whether academically, mentally, or emotionally. 

“Each message is different; I really try to take time and listen. Some of it is encouragement and some is just true listening. It’s okay to take your foot off the accelerator and just coast for a second, and just have a good time.”

You can find Dr. Danielle Williams in room 112 in Bowser Building.