Opening up to different hues

Color is not a synonym for diversity. This is the message newly appointed Associate Vice President of Diversity and Equal Opportunity for USF Ted Williams sends to the campus.

“We don’t want to trap ourselves into thinking solely color,” Williams said. Already the associate dean of diversity for the College of Medicine, Williams has been acting as the interim associate vice president of diversity and equal opportunities since October. This week he officially accepted the position and will continue working for the College of Medicine.

“(My job is to) raise the awareness of admissions to the need to educate students in a diverse educational environment,” Williams said, citing several studies that show the learning process is enhanced by a diverse student body. “You get to know different opinions, which is in itself a learning process.”

The new position allows him to do for the entire university what he has done for the College of Medicine.

“Our classes are more diverse than ever (in the College of Medicine),” he said. “Not just (in) race, but (in) ethnicity and gender differences.”

Under Williams’ direction, 133 of the College of Medicine’s 416 students during the 2003-04 year were minorities. This year, that number rose to 157 out of a total of 444.

When asked what makes him good for the job, he said it reminds him of questions he puts to his medical students.

“I value humanity. I don’t see color, per se. I value what other people bring to the table,” he said.

Williams claims to have been the only black professor in the basic sciences department when he first came to USF in 1978. He knew of only one black student in a College of Medicine class numbering nearly 100.

“Right away I saw there was something wrong with the picture,” he said.

With no official office for minority recruiting and only the support of the chairman, he began seeking out minorities for the College of Medicine.

From 1980 to 2001 he began a high-school minority summer program at USF.

“The purpose was to stimulate these kids to pursue science as a career,” he said.

The office for diversity in the College of Medicine wasn’t established until 1991 with the help of Dr. Rubens Pamies, who is now a provost at the University of Nebraska. At that time, Williams said he was “climbing the tenure ladder” in the cycle of “publish or perish.”

In 1996, Williams was appointed associate dean of diversity for the College of Medicine.

“That is when we started to show fruit,” he said. “We took it to another level.”

When USF President Judy Genshaft approached him about the new position, he had some goals in mind. Mainly, he said he would like to merge the main USF campus with that of the College of Medicine, because they act as two separate entities.

“I’m getting a feel for the culture of the main campus,” he said. “(The Dean of the College of Medicine) has realized the potential synergy between the two. We are all part of USF.”