Carolyn Sue Williams


Demonstrating Leadership Can Open Doors I Didn't Even Know Were Closed

Ep. 88 - Dr. Carolyn Sue Williams shares part of her journey from a childhood with 11 other siblings in the Baton Rouge of the 1950s with DeeDee Strum of TrailBlazers Impact Podcast. She describes herself  as an totally un-inspired high school student with only the prospect of "working in a white woman's kitchen" after graduation, to becoming one of the first four Black women in America to be awarded a PhD in political science in the early 1970s. She shares her eye-opening experience in a state sponsored civics and leadership development program after her junior year of high school, the Bayou State Girls program, and the life-altering outcomes that flowed therefrom, ultimately leading to a full scholarship for undergrad school with a class ranking of #13 and no expectation of college at all! With a B.S., M.S. and PhD in Political Science, she became a college professor in her late 20's. She received the totally unexpected opportunity to move to D.C. and subsequently received a Presidential appointment as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at age 32. Listen to hear how Carolyn became inspired to study political science and achieve her Ph.D. as the first handful of black women to do so in the history of America. You will also hear how she went on to make a change in the housing and community development sector.

Top Takeaways:

    • Having the inspiration to get a Ph.D. and study political science to be a true activist
    • The meaning of a political science Ph.D. and the career path graduates follow
    • Learning to expand the horizons with knowledge into business as opposed to being just a teacher
    • The long-term impact of NARMC in the public housing sector
    • Why you need to do the best you can in your current job to open up opportunities in the future

"When you're dealing with disenfranchised and impoverished people in this country or anywhere else, recognize that changes occur in very small stages."


In this episode you'll discover:

She tells the story of how she went from an uninspired high school student to a Ph.D. political scientist [1:15]

Understanding what it entails to be a political scientist [9:18]

What opportunities exist for Ph.D. political scientists [11:38]

How she went from the classroom to HUD as the deputy assistant secretary [17:49]

She explains how she went into business and offered her skills to advocate for public housing and community development with Kimi Grey [26:32]

How NARMC has impacted the community and public housing sector [30:44]

What advice would she give to women in the housing and community development in the 21st century [36:03]


She then left the federal service at age 33 and embarked on activism through consulting and developing strategies with public housing resident leaders.  She provided guidance to Kimi Gray, the founder of the National Association of Resident Management Corporations (NARMC) by using her understanding of the political arena to help make the business case for greater equity for the residents of public housing through such major legislation as the 1992 National Affordable Housing Act (NAHA).


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