“A pretty powerful package” – a phrase Professor Evelyn Williams used to describe the benefits of Wake Forest’s liberal arts foundation, yet the phrase seems fitting for Professor Williams as well. Professor Williams joined the Wake Forest community in 2011 as the Associate Vice President for Leadership Development and is a Professor of Practice in the School of Business, teaches Entrepreneurship and Social Enterprise (ESE) and Business and Enterprise Management (BEM) undergraduate courses, has taught first-year seminars, and is a current Faculty Fellow for Bostwick Hall. In all these roles, Professor Williams has engaged students with her innovative teaching style, her focus on personal and professional development, and mentoring practices weaved throughout her daily interactions. All of this combined with her genuine care for students both inside and outside the classroom create a “pretty powerful package” for Wake Forest.
Professor Williams came to Wake Forest after teaching at both Stanford University and the University of Chicago. Arriving at Wake, she was pleasantly surprised to find that the teacher-scholar model and strong focus on undergraduate students are an integral part of day-to-day life at Wake Forest. Beginning with New Faculty Orientation, Williams found that much more than “lip service” was paid to uplifting the teacher-scholar model and the student experience both inside and outside the classroom.
Williams herself has furthered these ideals throughout the Wake Forest community. Williams has gained a positive reputation due to her creativity, innovation, and ability to foster relationships on many different levels. Williams’s classes require students to meet with their assigned teammates and Professor Williams individually throughout the semester. These requirements engage students across various years and disciplines to discover their own personality and how to resolve conflict when working with differing personalities. Through focusing on teams and organizational behavior, undergraduate and graduate students leave Williams’s classes with both a better understanding of best practices and practical ways to apply these lessons to future groups or business teams.
Lila Sefat (’14) explained, “Professor Williams’s High Performing Teams class has been a fundamental part of my learning experience at Wake Forest and with my internship experience. Her class and innovative teaching style fosters a positive mindset and outlook on how to approach clients and team members in a way that allows students to achieve their goals successfully. Her teaching style has been most helpful with her focus on how to facilitate teams to communicate effectively and how to proactively maintain interpersonal trust in the workplace.”
Enthusiasm and excitement are felt when Professor Williams enters a room. Class often begins with music playing or a competitive review of the assigned reading. Students are encouraged to try new ideas, especially the crazy ones, to solve problems and create solutions. Williams teaches students to fail early and how to learn from mistakes, creating an environment which inspires students’ dedication, work ethic, and outcomes. Students’ final products prove how energizing and meaningful Williams’s teaching style is and cause Williams to be “constantly wowed” by students growth and outcomes.
As Peter Siderovski (’14) described, “”Evelyn unlocks the potential of innovation in all of her students. She champions an entrepreneurial class environment where student teams achieve true breakthroughs through their first ideas failing early and often. After taking her Design Thinking & High Performance Teams class, the way I do group work has permanently changed.”
Over the past two years, Williams has mentored many graduate and undergraduate students. She says she has enjoyed working with undergraduates as they remind her to be open and curious and are willing to “jump in with both feet.” Likewise, the work ethic of all Wake students impresses Williams. Working with both first-years and seniors, Williams has appreciated seeing what each are focused on at various times and seeing how their learning changes throughout the process. Williams watched the ripple effect Wake’s teacher-scholar model has as she noted the intense process seniors went through before graduation. She was shocked and delighted by how many students made a point to talk to her before they left and how many meaningful relationship had been created. This inspires her work with first-years as she sees the ripples affect it has across campus and excites her to be more involved in her new role as a Faculty Fellow.