- Award for Educational Leadership and Innovation (2012)
Professor Williams joined the Department of Anthropology in 2006. She is a bioarchaeologist whose research focuses on exploring the relationship between health and nutrition in past populations from North and South America and Mesoamerica. She is currently working on a variety of multidisciplinary projects investigating health, diet and population movement during periods of social and/or environmental upheaval (e.g., the ancient Maya ‘collapse’; the Spanish invasion of Peru).
In receiving this award, Prof. Williams is recognized for the “distinctive contribution she has made to both the undergraduate and graduate Anthropology programs at Trent University; the impact of her innovative methods of instruction; and her successful communication with students,” said Dr. Gary Boire, Trent’s provost and vice-president Academic.
At the undergraduate level, Prof. Williams is attributed with “revitalizing” the first year Biological Anthropology and Archaeology course through a “complete revamping of the course content” and the “introduction and use of numerous innovative teaching strategies,” explained David Poole, the chair of the teaching awards subcommittee. Further, Prof. Williams is commended for her initiative in developing new senior undergraduate courses in mortuary archaeology, bioarchaeology, and nutritional anthropology. At the graduate level, the “excellent training and instruction” she has provided through the graduate seminar in research design “have put graduate students in good stead to deliver consistently high quality presentations.”
Students appreciate Prof. Williams’ efforts to provide them with a variety of learning approaches, which are respectful of multiple learning styles. Such approaches include the creation of an audio book and an e-book of her custom textbook for Anthropology 1010H, the use of lecture capture, and the changes she has made to the way in which students use the course website.
Students also benefit from the hands-on experience with the anthropology osteological teaching collection and the innovative assignments Prof. Williams has designed to demonstrate the relevance of biological anthropology to the broader society in which we live. Such assignments not only promote analysis, interpretation and critical reflection, but also give students the “opportunity to see what it is like in the field,” according to a student nominator.
In making the announcement at Trent University Senate, Dr. Jocelyn Aubrey remarked that “Prof. Williams’ commitment to teaching is further reflected in the receipt of grants for teaching innovations, active participation in professional development opportunities, and the sharing of pedagogical strategies with faculty colleagues both within her department and within the broader instructional community.”
“It is wonderful to be acknowledged for something that I am so passionate about and I am deeply honoured to receive this award. I am grateful to work in a department and university where I am surrounded by excellent teachers who inspire me, support me and challenge me,” said Prof. Williams. “Since being hired at Trent, I have developed as a teacher, due in large part to the support of my colleagues, the support of the university (through Teaching Innovation grants) and the numerous helpful courses offered by the Instructional Development Centre and Information Technology. In particular I would like to acknowledge key support from the course coordinator for Anthropology 1010 and Mary-Jane Pilgrim; both of these individuals have been invaluable in putting my ideas into action. I am fortunate to teach a variety of students, from the first year up to the graduate level; each of these students teach me something different about my discipline, my teaching and the learning process. It is their intelligence, interest, encouragement and feedback that motivates and inspires me to develop and improve my teaching methods and course content.”