Sociology grad finds calling in academia, aims to teach those who will help underserved communities

Jolivette Williams

Jolivette Williams is graduating this spring with her master's degree in sociology from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.


Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2021 graduates.

Jolivette Williams started her sociology graduate program through ASU Online with the goal of becoming a certified clinician to help underserved communities. But soon she found a calling for a career in academia.

“I went from being confident that I would be a certified clinician with a private practice helping underserved communities to being sure that I would do a disservice if I did not contribute to the education process that creates many qualified people to assist those communities,” said Williams. “My new focus became academia. Instead of becoming one, I could influence many who could effectively fill the void of successful mental health care for this population.”

This spring, Williams will graduate from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences with her master’s degree in sociology, becoming the first in her generation to do so.

“To be a first-gen master’s graduate is such a great responsibility,” she said. “My goals seemed lofty at the onset and still seem so larger-than-life, but I know that my accomplishment will motivate and challenge the lives of so many after me. My success is truly a testament to how perseverance pays off.”

Williams shared more about her ASU journey.

Question: Why did you choose ASU?

Answer: ASU was my first choice of graduate schools because of the sociological program. The school's online presence and intuitive application process made starting the graduate program less stressful than I had anticipated.

Q: How was your experience navigating your program through ASU Online? 

A: The challenges of not having the same access as in-seat or hybrid students may be great, however, ASU has managed to integrate the online experience in a meaningful way that made me feel a part of the ASU family.

Q: Did you have an “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study your major, or what drew you to the degree program?

A: I left my undergraduate institution wanting to become a psychologist. Knowing that sociology would bring much-needed depth to my field because of my sociology minor, I decided to enter training at the graduate level. It wasn't until my second year of graduate school that I knew that my previous goals' trajectory had changed significantly. Sociology would become my new focus.

Q: What’s something you learned while at The College — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: Learning how the grand expression of life's experiences can often transcend the individual and have social implications explaining a myriad of psychological phenomena shifted my perspective to more significant sociological concerns.

Q: Did you experience any obstacles along your way? If yes, how did you overcome them?

A: The major obstacle I experienced throughout grad school was time management. I overcame this issue with the single purchase of an old-fashioned day planner. Writing out every appointment, meeting, class, lunch break, study time, journaling time and everything relevant in the day makes time management a breeze. Organization of time is vital.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: This is a tricky question because there is a list of people: professors like Dr. Denise Bodman, and Khaerannisa Cortes, for whom I was a teacher assistant, and Diana Gal-Szabo, who gave me my first research assistant opportunity. These people positively impacted my life and gave me the guidance to excel through my graduate school matriculation.

Q: What advice would you offer to students considering or about to pursue a graduate degree?

A: Starting graduate school can be so intimidating — you’re no longer an undergraduate and feel that you are once again the tiny fish in a large pond. That's OK. Swim freely and grow. If you apply yourself, you will succeed. Know that you earned a spot at this institution, and you can excel.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I plan to further my graduate school education at the University of Memphis. The University of Memphis has a program where I can achieve a Doctor of Liberal Arts degree with a self-regulated interdisciplinary degree that allows me to create a personalized program across disciplines. I am excited at the autonomy and freedom to train in the disciplines of psychology and sociology.

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