Personal testimonial for Darnell Thigpen Williams, Ed.M. Educational Consultant
“I have the privilege of knowing Mr. Williams since 2008 when we first met at Urban College of Boston (UCB). At that time, I was the Interim Academic Dean and Darnell was one of the senior adjunct faculty members. I later returned to UCB in 2015 as the Director of Special Projects. We are also colleagues at Cambridge College and the University of Massachusetts/ Boston; I often hire Darnell to be a guest speaker or co-instructor in my classes at both institutions.
I clearly remember some of my first impressions of Darnell as a premier educator, instructor, mentor, researcher, social justice advocate, and a man with depth of character. One of my early memories of Darnell and his integrity and professionalism especially in the field of education and his ability to hold the attention of hundreds of other educators was when I attended a professional development training that he gave at UCB on various ways to assess and evaluate students’ work. His presentation included cutting-edge research. His delivery was clear, captivating, and inclusive. More than seven years later, I remember the information he conveyed! The information he provided was critical since the UCB students were nontraditional and mostly non-English speaking learners; evaluation of their work needed to be accurate but also alternative and culturally responsive in nature. Mr. Williams presented new and effective ways for assessing the academic work of these students and gave us new tools for our toolbox.
This was the beginning. I later become more aware and even more impressed with Darnell’s many talents, experiences, passions, and overall wisdom in the areas of education, community building, and social justice. I observed the courses he created and taught at UCB on Race, Class, Gender and was again impressed with his depth of knowledge in this subject area and his approach to instructing students about specific material such as microaggressions. His instructional style is clear and compelling and filled with examples from research and history. My students always ask for his return when I have had him as a guest presenter.
Mr. Williams’ has a unique ability to provide transformational professional development to teachers, administrators, schools, and organizations that focus on advancing social justice and equity work has given his own background and experiences as a native from the south side of Chicago. Despite the barriers presented to him by society in general and by specific individuals from the school systems he attended and the community in which he lived, Darnell went on to receive mentoring by Michelle Obama and later met other national leaders, justice advocates, and educators. He was intentional about following their example in beating the odds. He left Chicago as a young man for higher education in Boston where he received undergraduate and graduate degrees from Boston University and Harvard University and became a well-known educational professional and social justice advocate, spokesperson, and researcher.
Highly committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), Darnell accepted a position this past summer (2020) during the height of the pandemic to work in a leadership instructional role for a summer youth program that exposed urban high school students to the many careers in the construction trades. His inclusion in this program brought the overall remotely run project in new directions. Darnell taught students about growth and fixed mindsets and he became a natural professional development trainer for the rest of the staff around confronting difficult DEI issues. He helped the program’s director and other staff to create and embrace strategies to support culturally responsive teaching and do intentional, targeted anti-racist work with the students and staff members.
I worked in this same program with Darnell and my own work and style changed because of his influence. I became much more aware of ways to include an anti-racist dialogue and to be more of a culturally responsive teacher. It reminded me of when Darnell and I worked together at UCB on the college’s first dual enrollment program for underrepresented students from the Boston Public Schools. He was of great help to me in developing strategies to recruit and retain racially diverse students in their college courses.
Finally, Darnell is the epitome of integrity, character, and high moral values. When I reflect upon Darnell, and my friendship and professional relationship with him, I am reminded of this quote by John Lewis:
“Every generation leaves behind a legacy. What that legacy will be is determined by the people of that generation. What legacy do you want to leave behind?”
Most certainly, Darnell will leave behind an incredible legacy as he facilitates his students and others to create their own. I am blessed to have Darnell among my dearest colleagues, mentors, and friends.” (Sandra Copman, Ed.D., Senior Instructor, Cambridge College, Associate Professor, UMass Boston, Development Executive, Educational Leader, Program Director, Social Justice and Disability Advocate)