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Thinking Globally

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Portia Williams

Portia Williams

As TC’s new Director for International Affairs, Portia Williams is shaping a vision for international collaboration

Curriculum development projects in India; a growing partnership with the education ministry of Jordan; new collaborations in Africa and Iceland -- these are heady times for faculty and students at TC with an international focus.

Now there’s yet another exciting development: the appointment of the College’s first Director of International Affairs, Portia Williams.

If the name sounds familiar, it might be because Williams just finished five grueling years at TC earning her doctorate in International Educational Development and Policy Studies.  But don’t let her recent student status fool you: Williams is an experienced veteran in the worlds of international education and education policy who has logged plenty of time out in the field. She started down that road after teaching English as a second language at universities in Washington D.C., where she become intrigued by her students' roles as outsiders -- their diverse experiences and the many different places they had come from. That led her to work in the Peace Corps in Albania, where she became a lecturer at the University of Shkodra and later, a teacher trainer in the city’s Department of Education. There she became more interested in policy studies than individual instruction.

When Williams returned to the U.S., it wasn't long before she entered the policy world – and headed right back out overseas. She spent more than six years directing education and other development programs in East and Southern Africa. Finally she came to TC because “I began to see a number of gaps in the field that I felt I needed to explore further through education.” With her broad field experiences, she was selected to serve as the first coordinator for TC’s Center for African Education.

Someone else might have chosen to take a break between a doctoral program and a new job, but Williams actually began her position in March, while still finishing up her school work.

“I spent my first weeks on the job getting everything organized,” she says. “I really feel excited about getting the message out about what we do. There's so much history in what we have already done, from Afghanistan to East Africa to Asia. We can focus on our existing relationships but also move beyond that to see how we as an institution can support our partnerships and create new ones.”

In her new role, reporting to TC President Susan Fuhrman, Williams will coordinate and support the College’s myriad international projects, while also helping to expand its collaborative efforts at the institutional level. "There are numerous countries that have asked for TC’s help with their educational reform and training efforts,” she says. “We are in a unique position. We can be trainer and trainee, learner and teacher.”

Williams has been working closely with Fuhrman to develop a vision for the office. “We want to support faculty activities and also look at how the institution works more broadly,” she says. “The first step is to explore what our priorities are and to look at our resources in relation to various needs. There's so much expertise here ready to be tapped.”

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