The uncertainty of a new beginning is always slightly unnerving, but since Dr. H. James Williams became Mount St. Joseph University’s president over eight months ago, he is pleased to note that the transition has been a smooth one. “Faculty, staff, and students have been very welcoming,” Dr. Williams says. “In fact, the entire region has been really open and welcoming.”
This warm reception has been highly conducive to the changes that Dr. Williams and his cabinet would like to make—particularly at the administrative level—in order to “support the students and the student support services better.” He also intends for the Mount to connect with the surrounding community in a way that makes the Mount more visible, so that it is well-known on both sides of the city.
“I am actually going out and having lunch and breakfast meals with the officials in the community, with the corporate leaders, with the leaders of not-for-profit organizations, with high school principals and presidents,” Dr. Williams relates. This has included making a speech at Elder High School and a presentation before the Delhi chapter of the Kiwanis Club, among other engagements.
As he dialogues with the people of Cincinnati, Dr. Williams wants to know how the Mount can help the community, rather than how the community can help the Mount. This is in concordance with the university’s mission to provide an education that not only emphasizes experiential and liberal arts education, but also social responsibility; it also aligns well with Dr. Williams’ personal goal of “serv[ing] academia and the business and broader communities by providing dynamic, practical, and faith-based leadership in a University setting … while responding to business and community needs.”
The one-on-one attention inherent in a small, liberal arts setting—the kind which allows for Dr. Williams to be on a first-name basis with students, or for Dateline to sit down and have a conversation with him—was something that he found lacking in a huge institution like Georgetown University, where he studied higher education law.
When Dr. Williams had been both a student and fulltime faculty member at the University of Notre Dame, he had been able, due to the relatively small size of its law program, to have conversations with his professor and fellow classmates following the lecture. But at Georgetown, if you wanted to talk to the professor, you literally had to wait in line—there just wasn’t time for that kind of intimate dialogue in a program serving over 2,000 students.
As a professional who has spent many years in higher education, Dr. Williams also looks beyond the walls of Mount St. Joseph to the American educational system, which he believes “can meet the education and learning needs of virtually any student.” With the president-elect of the United States assuming office in a few weeks, there is a potential for change within this system, which Dr. Williams hopes will be directed towards the welfare of students across the nation.
“I hope the next president can work collaboratively with institutions of higher education to make higher education more affordable and even more effective in supporting and sustaining our democracy,” Dr. Williams says.