Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Kristen K. Williams ’00

Dr. Kristen K. Williams is an Assistant Professor in the School of Education at Heidelberg University, a liberal-arts institution in Tiffin, Ohio. Upon graduation from the Indiana Academy in 2000, she earned three degrees from Ball State University, including a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology with specializations in Human Growth and Development and Gifted/Talented Studies. At Heidelberg University, she teaches research and statistics as well as child, adolescent, and adult development courses in the Master of Arts in Education program and serves at the Faculty Adviser and Program Coordinator for MAE student research.

Dr. Williams’ interest in Educational Psychology developed during her time at the Indiana Academy. “At my home high school, I was earning mediocre grades, felt extremely bored, and had a disinterest in school. I had to hide my passion for learning and my intelligence in order to blend in and avoid being bullied. When I arrived at the Academy, it was an entirely different experience. It was ‘cool’ to be smart; my peers enjoyed learning as much as I did and I didn’t feel ostracized for my intellectual curiosity.” She added that the classes were challenging and interesting, which made her want to engage.

Upon realizing the difference that an educational environment could make in the life of a student, Dr. Williams decided to explore the issue further in her collegiate and graduate education. During her graduate studies, as part of her specialization in Gifted and Talented Studies, Dr. Williams served as a co-investigator for a study on perfectionism in gifted students. The results of that study were presented at several national and international conferences, including at the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children, and was published in the Roeper Review, a peer-reviewed journal addressing issues pertaining to gifted education. She plans to continue this line of work by examining identity issues among gifted emerging adults. Dr. Williams has also served as program evaluator for gifted programs in Indiana.

Being raised in a rural area of Indiana, Dr. Williams also has an interest in college access, attendance, and attainment issues among rural students. Her dissertation, which was fully funded by the Association for Institutional Research and the National Center for Education Statistics, was an examination of the unique factors that facilitate or hinder rural students’ college attendance. For this study, she also received the Charles I. Brown Fellow Award for Most Outstanding Dissertation Proposal. The results of this investigation have been presented at national and international conferences, including the American Educational Research Association. She has continued this line of work by exploring the role of parents and peers in the development of students’ college aspirations.

Currently, she is using the knowledge that she has gained through her research in her newly appointed position as a Board Director for the Seneca Mentoring Youth Links, which aims to mentor area youth into making better choices for a bright future. “Having come from a disadvantaged background myself and being a first-generation scholar, I can recognize the role that mentors have played in the success of my life, including Academy teachers as well as college professors. I hope that my position on the SMYL Board will allow me to give back to the next generation the opportunities that were afforded to me.” Dr. Williams will be designing assessments and inventories that will be used to identify links between mentors and mentees as well as measure the outcomes of the program for formative evaluation.

Most recently, she coordinated a community speakers’ panel on Human Trafficking at Heidelberg University. Upon realizing that Northwest, Ohio, is a major hub for human trafficking crimes, Dr. Williams wanted to do something to help eradicate this systematic crime. The audience turnout was overwhelming, with standing room only for some, which highlighted the need for this event. She plans to continue the event annually and hopes to bring some national speakers and researchers to Heidelberg. She credits her experiences at the Indiana Academy for helping her to develop a sense of civic responsibility and social justice.

Dr. Williams earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology (2005) with Magna Cum Laude honors and was Vice-President of BSU’s Psi Chi Honorary Society. She also completed her Master of Arts (2006) and Doctorate of Philosophy (2009) in Educational Psychology at Ball State University. Dr. Williams really enjoys traveling and has been afforded the opportunity to see many places, including Hawaii, through presenting research. She lives in northwest Ohio with her significant other and their daughter.