Janice Eatman Williams wants Case Western Reserve University students to not only become familiar with their academic lessons, but also the cultural classroom that surrounds the university.
"We have all of this," she says while pointing out different museums and resources in University Circle. To help students who will be spending several years as part of the campus community become familiar with the area, she leads walking heritage tours of the University Circle, Glenville and Hough neighborhoods.
Eatman Williams, assistant director of the Center for Civic Engagement and Learning, is a recipient of the President's Award for Distinguished Service. She received the award during the annual Staff Service Awards Brunch last week. The awards program was a collaborative effort between the Department of Human Resources, the Staff Advisory Council and the Office of the President.
Nominators pointed out Eatman Williams' knack for bringing people together, a skill she feels comes naturally. "I'm good at it because I value relationships. I try to connect with a person's spirit and purpose. It doesn't matter what your background is. I'm blessed to have all kinds of people in my life," says Eatman Williams, who has been with the Center for Civic Engagement and Learning for 11 years. A nominator wrote that students who become connected to Eatman Williams also receive an added bonus. "Once under her wing, students know that they will always be under her wing."
Part of her job responsibility is connecting student volunteers with opportunities to give back, usually by tutoring neighborhood children or working with area nonprofit agencies. She also coordinates annual trips to New Orleans, where students and alumni contribute to ongoing Hurricane Katrina cleanup efforts. In addition, Eatman Williams often serves as a guest speaker in classes, where she discusses volunteer opportunities and historical lessons about Glenville and other Cleveland neighborhoods. She also heads up the Closing the Achievement Gap program, which brings high school males to campus twice a week for academic assistance. Her responsibilities also include serving on numerous committees and partnership initiatives.
"I love higher education, and I love that this university is in my neighborhood. To be able to share gifts with the place that has gifted me is wonderful," says Eatman Williams, who grew up in the Glenville community. "This is a really strong neighborhood."
She says it's important for students to not only recognize the cultural education available to them by being in University Circle, but also the numerous resources available from the people on campus. "This is a living classroom. Some people who work on campus live in the surrounding areas, and they have a variety of rich skills. They are an asset to the overall community."
Eatman Williams, who also has a master's degree from the Mandel Center for Nonprofit Organizations, says she was "stunned" to learn of her nomination. "You never know who is paying attention."
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