Thursday, April 18, 2024

Stelfanie Williams


Stelfanie Williams spent more than six years as president of Vance-Granville Community College before leaving in 2018 to join Duke University as vice president for community affairs. The decision allowed Williams to return to her alma mater, where she earned bachelor’s degrees in public policy and Spanish, and to change her career focus.

“This role has been an opportunity to transfer my experiences from community colleges in many rural settings to a research university in an urban environment and to work with others collaboratively to address shared concerns and interests that support basic human needs and rights,” she says.

Williams started her second, five-year stint in her role in July. Williams helps Duke work on quality of life issues through education, healthcare, housing and employment initiatives. She works with Durham Public Schools, Durham Technical Community College and N.C. Central University, an historically Black institution. She also serves on the boards of many Durham civic groups and has been a director at the $50 billion State Employees’ Credit Union since 2017.

Williams led Vance-Granville from 2012 to 2018, receiving the state community college system board’s award for “president of the year.” The college serves more than 8,000 students a year at campuses in Vance, Granville, Franklin and Warren counties in northeast North Carolina. She was the first woman and the first person of color to serve as president of the college, where nearly half of the students at the time were Black or Hispanic.

“Being able to open doors for others is an important responsibility. It is something that I have done professionally, and, as importantly, it is a personal disposition,” she says.

Williams, who has a doctorate in adult and higher education from N.C. State University, continued to teach courses while at both Vance-Granville and Duke. “Teaching is a role that brings me tremendous joy, and I have learned as much from others as I ever taught,” she says.

Williams was motivated to pursue education as a career by a family member who could not read. “This inspired my interest in literacy and education,” she says. “My family instilled in me a belief in the dignity of all humans.”

Williams credits her parents with placing a high value on understanding the world “through eyes and voices other than one’s own.” She says that direction instilled in her the benefit of traveling globally, while appreciating the importance of local connections and community development. It also influenced her decision to earn a second bachelor’s degree in a foreign language, she says.


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