Chad Williams, wearing his mortarboard and with his arms around his daughter and mother, outside after the 2023 Commencement ceremony.
Chad Williams, his daughter, Emma, and his mother, Yvonne Williams, at last spring's Commencement ceremony, where he was recognized for earning his MSW.

Chad Williams, MSW ’23, a Queens, New York, native and dedicated social work PhD student, works for the New York City Administration for Children’s Services while completing his doctorate. He recently authored a children’s book with his daughter that encourages young girls to feel empowered and confident. Williams’ goal: to continue to find ways to tie social work to the arts.

When Chad Williams, MSW ’23, was working on his master’s degree in social work at Adelphi, he was also an assistant program director at a nonprofit that provides children and families with the resources they need to rise above adversity.

“The kids would say, ‘Wow, I’ve never seen someone in this position before that looks like me, dresses like me.’ So I thought, what if I took this a step further and showed them you don’t have to stop at this level?” Williams said. “I wanted to make a difference and provide representation.”

Williams didn’t stop at the master’s degree level. After earning his MSW this past spring, he entered the doctoral program in the fall, not only to set an example for kids he works with, but to find new and innovative ways to make an impact on his community.

Finding his calling

Williams earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology and played on his college’s basketball team. He even played some professional basketball in China after graduating. When he returned to New York, though, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. Then his mentor recommended a position working with young people who faced legal challenges.

“I didn’t know what I was getting myself into at first,” said Williams, who’s from Jamaica, Queens, New York. “But I started to heavily engage with the kids and I realized they were just like me. They came from the same communities and had similar experiences, so I saw a lot of myself in them. At that time, I was hooked.”

Making his voice heard

Emma sits on Chad Williams' lap, as he gives her a kiss on the cheeks. The two are wearing matching red and white sneakers and are sitting on a white sofa in front of a mirrored wall.

Doctoral student Chad Williams, MSW ’23, and Emma, coauthors of the book Emma Picks Her Kicks

Deciding to get an MSW, Williams chose Adelphi, where found the space and support to make his own voice heard and study in the ways that were most engaging to him. “I had this understanding that I wanted my narrative to count, and I think Adelphi made sure of that,” Williams said. “I felt like my story actually counted for something.”

He points to his inclusive curriculum, for example, which includes works from writers like James Baldwin, bell hooks and Kimberlé Crenshaw.

“The curriculum is always changing and it’s often informed by the students,” Williams said. “Because we’ve voiced our opinions, now we’re getting readings from different scholars and authors—including people who look and sound just like me. That representation means a lot.”

Empowering kids to make their own decisions

 The cover of "Emma Picks Her Kicks." The cover shows the title and the subtitle: "A Daddy Daughter Kickstory," along with "by Chad and Emma Williams" and "Illustrated by Darrin Glen." The illustration shows Chad in a Yankees cap and black hightop sneakers and Emma wearing leopard-patterned sneakers and holding a handbag.

Emma Picks Her Kicks was listed as a top holiday gift by BET. Williams donated copies to New York City nonprofits that support families.

In 2021, Black Entertainment Television (BET) published a list of top holiday gifts for the sneaker lovers in your life. On that list was Emma Picks Her Kicks, a self-published children’s book Williams wrote with his daughter, Emma.

The two wrote the book together during the pandemic, inspired by their own morning routine of picking out shoes for Emma, then 7 years old, to wear. Instead of deciding for her, Williams wanted to empower his daughter to make her own decisions.

“When she started to pick out her own shoes, I realized her self-esteem and her confidence started to build a lot more,” Williams said. “So the book is about empowering children’s choices—even small ones—and giving them autonomy at a young age.”

Williams and his daughter created four custom pairs of sneakers and a few sneaker-themed bookmarks to sell along with the book. They gave back by partnering with Brooklyn Community Services to gift books and sneakers to fathers trying to reintegrate into their families. They also gave 50 books to a local hospital and donated proceeds to The New York Foundling, an organization that supports families on their paths to stability and independence.

“It was a good ride and Emma loved it,” Williams said. “She did readings at schools and community centers, and it went really well. We enjoyed every moment of it.”

Researching mental health in college athletics

As a PhD candidate, Williams is combining his two passions into a research topic that hits close to home: the effects of college athletics on the mental health and well-being of Black student athletes.

“You can provide me with a tutor to make sure I’m performing academically or an athletic trainer to make sure I’m making eight out of 10 shots, but what if I’m struggling through a crisis?” Williams said. “How do we collaborate with athletic directors and say, ‘Hey, is there room in the budget for a mental health counselor or a therapist that goes with the team?'”

Williams hopes to address the stigma around seeking mental health support in the Black community and to suggest ways to make mental health resources more accessible for athletes.

“I really want to create an auto-ethnographic study where I can engage myself into the work as well as conducting qualitative interviews with other Black male student athletes,” Williams added. “I want to help people connect with the experience, but also understand how social structures, systemic challenges and cultural projections play a major part in mental health and well-being on campus.”

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