Williams plans to leverage the Evening Master’s Program to engage in social and education policy work that positively impacts her community.
Headshot of Teela Williams
Teela Williams

Born and raised in Evanston, Illinois, Teela Williams’ background in hospitality management led her to the Harris School of Public Policy Evening Master’s Program (EMP)

Although she mastered event planning and coordination and completed an M.S. in Hospitality and Tourism Management from Roosevelt University, Williams said she wants to learn more about social policies: who sits at the table and how those decisions are made. For example, while working for educational institutions, she saw how stipulations in donation policies affect who has access to events and spaces and would like to make the process more inclusive. Williams is especially interested in examining points where social policy intersects higher education policy, such as the curriculum, standardized testing, and student debt policy.

She ultimately hopes to use her EMP degree to strengthen her personal relationship with her community. “As a child, I spent time being part of community organizations that enhanced me mentally, physically, and professionally—from youth soccer camp to free college and career programs. Nonprofits helped propel me where I am today.” These experiences inspired her to start her own freelance event planning company that provides free consulting services to organizations across the city of Chicago.

In addition to volunteer work, she previously served as the Assistant Director of Student Life at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and also spent time as the Associate Director of Graduate Enrollment for the UChicagoGRAD office, where she helped reinvent orientation programming for all incoming graduate and PhD students across the University. She attributes lessons from her Leadership & Negotiations class with Senior Lecturer John Burrows in inspiring her drive to leverage social capital for good.

In the future, Williams hopes to work as a COO for a large nonprofit organization, as “Community is still a source of strength in what I do. I hope to position myself in an organization that gives people opportunities like I had growing up with free community, college, and career programs.”

Due to the pandemic, William’s onboarding and orientation to the EMP were virtual, but Williams remarks that she “felt very connected to the university.” She especially liked how the program directors met one-on-one with each member of her cohort during orientation. She appreciates events hosted by the program, like a virtual wine tasting event, that give her the chance to meet EMP students across different cohorts. “People in the EMP are doing real work in the community right now, which is super inspiring.”

To students considering applying to the EMP, Williams offers this piece of advice: “Ignore the voice in your head that’s casting worries. Others in the EMP community were all concerned about the same things, and they will help you with any challenges you encounter in the program. You won’t be alone.” To current students, Williams recommends taking advantage of study groups, tutoring, and all of the public events available through the program and the University. “Enjoy every minute!”