Anna Williams, red overlay

Class of 2020's Anna Williams Excelled as Student Leader

Anna Williams became a model for student organization and leadership during her time at Rutgers University-Newark. In May 2020, the New Jersey native received her bachelor’s degree with a double major in political science and anthropology and a minor in social justice in affiliation with the Honors Living-Learning Community (HLLC).

Williams first heard about HLLC in 2016 while applying to colleges during her senior year at South Plainfield High School. Having a Vietnamese mother and a fifth-generation Italian-American father, she wanted to embrace her identity in the midst of anti-immigration sentiments in the United States. After learning about HLLC’s mission, Williams decided to apply to the program because it would accept her for who she was.

“To see a program like HLLC, and for them to say, ‘We care about who you are, and we care about the fact that you care about the world,’ you don't really see that in the college admission process,” says Williams. “So that really spoke to me, and then fortunately I got accepted.”

Joining HLLC was just the beginning to Williams's presence in the Rutgers-Newark community. After discovering that Rutgers-Newark did not have a Model United Nations team, she formed the Rutgers University-Newark Association of International Relations (RUAIR), a program that trains delegates to compete in the Model United Nations Conference, which discusses various international issues among other competing schools. With Williams leading the program, in May 2019, RUAIR won the title for Organization of the Year.

Anna Williams in front of poster
Anna Williams at the 2019 Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement Meeting in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Williams was the only undergraduate student out of 9 posterboard presenters and spoke with attendees about creating the Student Organizations' Union of Leaders (SOUL) and how it served as a model for campus engagement and accountability between student leaders, the student governing body, and administration.

In addition to starting RUAIR, Williams, with the help of other organization leaders from the Student Governing Association and the Office of Student Life and Leadership, started the Student Organizations’ Union of Leaders (SOUL). Williams represented SOUL at the Civil Learning and Democratic Engagement conference, an annual gathering among college administrators to facilitate the exchange of knowledge through shared civic learning and democratic engagement work.

“I love the acronym because the whole catchphrase is that student organizations are the heart and soul of the Rutgers campus,” says Williams. “SOUL was really special because it was a great experience for advocacy work by learning how to debate topics with others to garner consensus and push for results.”

In addition to leading campus organizations, Williams also studied abroad during her time at Rutgers-Newark. Last semester, she traveled to the United Kingdom, where she attended Oxford Brookes University to participate in a political science program. Through RUAIR, Williams developed a passion for international relations and took courses centered around that topic while there.

“With RUAIR, I started the organization with this idea that I wanted all of us to understand what it means to be international and care about people in all of these different communities — and I actually got to do it, which was really special for me,” says Williams.

As a student, Williams received a scholarship from the Clement A. Price Humanities Scholars Program. With the help of this program, she has received her undergraduate degree with a focus on humanities and intends on continuing her education by pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, one of the top-rated schools for diplomacy and international relations. Ultimately, she aspires to work for the U.S. Department of State or the United Nations.

Venturing out into the world to start her new journey, Williams will always remember her experiences at Rutgers-Newark and how the HLLC program helped to develop her into the leader she is today.

“This is a great place to grow— as an individual, as a leader, as a person,” says Williams. “My experience with student organizations, as an organization leader, and working with other individuals, made that time so worthwhile.”

"This is a great place to grow, as an individual, as a leader, as a person," said Anna Williams.