The City of Dallas closed Women's History Month on an inspiring note Friday afternoon with our Dr. Monica Williams, Vice President for Advancement, delivering a deeply personal speech to a large gathering at the Women's Celebration Luncheon at City Hall.
Dr. Williams disclosed struggles in her early life following the divorce of her parents, to becoming a teen mother and to her own painful marital split. Yet each obstacle, she said, provided motivation to keep going, to continue furthering her education, to keep seeking a better life for her and her daughter.
"Instead of relying on someone to take care of us, I understood, that it was my job to take care of us. I began charting a path for us that I called breaking cycles. I returned to graduate school and began looking for a better job. The world of nonprofit was waiting for me. I went to work for Houston’s largest United Way agency and was promoted five times in two years. I was responsible for a $100 million budget for a $200 million agency. I wrote for and was funded a $62 million grant from HRSA. That was really the beginning."
Dr. Williams earned her master's degree and began her career in higher education at Texas Southern University. Proving to be quite proficient at developing beneficial relationships with donors, an opportunity soon arose at Prairie View A&M University to lead its first-ever campaign to raise $30 million. Dr. Williams personally raised $26 million -- while simultaneously enrolled in a full-time doctoral program.
That led to an opportunity at UNT Dallas, a small, relatively unknown university, but one undertaking a unique and ambitious mission to tear down economic barriers that too often keep students in low-income areas of southern Dallas from attending college.
Remember the Enjoli commercial, “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan!”? I wanted so desperately to be that woman. A phenomenal woman. Today, I am blessed to work for the best boss [President Bob Mong] I’ve ever had at one of the most diverse universities in the U.S. We have been named the fastest-growing university in the state and our students have the lowest debt upon graduation in the U.S. Our enrollment is up 51% over the last three years, and we have record retention. These UNT Dallas students are committed to working right here in Dallas. They are the next generation of leaders…of elected officials. Of MDs, PHDs, teachers, trailblazers.
Trailblazer. There is no better description for Dr. Williams, a most fitting speaker to cap Women's History Month.
Also attending the luncheon was UNT Dallas College of Law's Emily Worland, a 3L evening student and Law Review Chief Executive Officer. She also works for the City of Dallas as policy advisor and council liaison to District 9 councilmember Mark Clayton. Worland assisted in the coordination of the City of Dallas Women's Achievement Archival Photo Wall.
"I enjoy working at City Hall each day with amazing female leaders of such intelligence and strength," Worland said. "Today's event was a wonderful testament to the women who serve the City of Dallas. Of course, that service is multiplied by partnerships with other amazing female leaders in the community like Dr. Williams. Working together, women can do anything!"