It’s time to unveil the inner workings and contributions from the Mount's First Lady, Carole Williams.

President H. James Williams and Carole Williams in MSJ quad smiling.

A community engagement supporter, a proactive listener, and a sincere helping hand, it’s time to unveil the inner workings and contributions from the great woman behind the title, “First Lady.”

Carole Campbell Williams, First Lady and Ambassador at Mount St. Joseph University, delightfully represents the other half of the MSJ story alongside President H. James Williams Ph.D., seventh President of the Mount.

Participating on several boards throughout the Greater Cincinnati area, First Lady Carole Williams actively engages with campus, including students, faculty & staff, alumni, the Board of Trustees, Sisters of Charity, and other University constituents to make a positive impact on campus and beyond.

While much of her efforts on behalf of Mount St. Joseph University are unofficial, Mrs. Williams finds great joy in making connections, and students looking for advice or support are welcome to connect with her. She is a proponent of empowering students to take risks, get involved, and participate in fun events during this developmental time in their lives.

“For students, it’s a sacrifice to go to college, and we want to make sure students can have the best experience while they’re in college because they can never get it again,” says Mrs. Williams. “I was an adjunct for a while [at a previous college], and I’d come into class on a Monday and asked who went to the football game,” she smiles. For Mrs. Williams, the fun part is hearing their stories, seeing where they are stuck, and encouraging them to get outside their comfort zones, like studying abroad if they wish.

When arriving to the Mount in 2016, Dr. and Mrs. Williams were encouraged to create a stronger presence throughout the Greater Cincinnati area to build connections and to represent the Mount as the hidden gem on the West Side of Cincinnati. Mrs. Williams conscientiously discovered the causes she liked to support within the community, and pursued them. Her community involvement includes Board Member service for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Cincinnati, Board of Directors at Bethany House Services and Girl Scouts of Western Ohio, and her newly-elected role as President of the Ambassadors on the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center Board.

“Our goal is to make the Mount as positive of an impact in the community as we can; how can we make a bigger circle and become more inclusive?” Mrs. Williams rhetorically questions. “We are so much bigger. There are MSJ students working all over [the region]. We want the Mount to be a place everybody wants to come to, and come back to.”

In addition to supporting students, Mrs. Williams actively listens to alumni and other MSJ constituent concerns on campus and advocates for the “why” behind campus initiatives, offering what she calls her “mother view” and “professional view” perspective to address specific concerns. She recently emphasized the necessity of the Centennial Field House for both men and women, not only from a new equipment standpoint, but for campus members to experience a safe indoor space to work out to support their overall wellbeing. This facility highlights the Mount’s commitment to the balanced development of body, mind, and spirit, and Mrs. Williams' campus safety perspective of the space highlights her commitment to everyone’s comfort.

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center Board Service

Delving into numerous engagement opportunities, Mrs. Williams describes her most recent role as a newly-elected President of the Ambassadors on the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center Board in November, 2021. Additionally, she was recently appointed to the Development Committee. According to the Freedom Center, their mission is “to pursue inclusive freedom by promoting social justice for all, building on the principles of the Underground Railroad.” The center illuminates the meaning of inclusive freedom through both permanent and special exhibits that inspire dialogue and action.

Consisting of nearly 54 members, Mrs. Williams joined the Ambassadors to gain a better understanding of the Freedom Center, and to promote its programming to the public. “We are the helpers, almost like the Ambassadors at the University,” she describes.

The first part of the Freedom Center begins with an emotional journey on the history of slavery from the 1600s to the 1900s. She pauses in reflection. “It’s just absolutely..I don’t know..you’re stunned by the time you finish. You’re exhausted, but it has so much history and it just has this great understanding of how slavery became a part of the fabric of the United States from the beginning through the 1900s, and that’s very important to understand.”

According to Mrs. Williams, one might view the building and its name as locked only into the history of slavery in the United States.  The Freedom Center does provides an extensive written and visual history of slavery, from the 1600’s to 1865; however, it also provides programing on current social issues in the U.S. and around the world.  This includes human trafficking awareness, modern day slavery and exploitation, mass incarceration, and social justice programming. The current exhibits demonstrates the diversity in programming.

Thus, the broader message of the freedom center is that while the past is there and it’s important, what is happening today is what’s relevant to the younger community.

“I think my role as an Ambassador, is to help the Freedom Center promote the other 80 percent of the building,” she asserts. “And that’s the fascinating part of it, is to get out the other story. The history of slavery is there; It’s shocking, it’s heartbreaking, it’s accurate, and it’s there, but that’s history. And the Freedom Center’s relevancy today is not just the history of the center, but it’s the social justice portion as well.”

Mrs. Williams strongly believes in educating children about historical events through an uncensored lens, asserting that if individuals do not know the ‘how,’ then how can they truly understand the ‘what.’ While the rationale behind the horrors of slavery and the Holocaust can be difficult to talk about, the history has to be known in order to move forward, and to reach the next level of change.

“You cannot hide from the truth. That’s my fear today, that we’re afraid of the truth that does hurt sometimes, but you can do something about it. It is my honor to be able to support and promote the mission of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. Uncensored education is necessary to honestly discuss the issues of today.”

As social justice is brimming across the United States, Mrs. Williams finds that the Mount is doing its part to promote social justice. On behalf of the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, she attended the opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Mosaic Center, a safe space for students to make new connections and embrace new perspectives in an accepting environment on campus. she witnessed diversity groups representing their challenges, and offering gratitude for the space.

“I think the Mount is doing an excellent job. I see Prayers for Racism every Tuesday and I’m so happy to see that go across the University. The students are getting involved, and that’s when the next level of change will come.”

About

Carole Williams is a CPA, and earned her MBA at the Clark Atlanta University and her bachelor’s degree in Business, at the University of Michigan. She also completed courses in the University of Cincinnati’s Historical Preservation graduate program, supporting her passion for the preservation and restoration of historical facilities.

She and President Williams reside in Delhi (west side of Cincinnati). They have two young-adult children, a son-in-law, and a very young grandson.

 

Amanda Gratsch, a 2015 Communication & New Media major, was editor of Dateline. She is currently Web Services Lead in MSJ Marketing & Communications.