MSHE Powers Staff Advocacy through Leadership and Service

MSHE Powers Staff Advocacy through Leadership and Service

By Chris Neary

joan-trimuel-williams_msheadlines.pngThis story was originally published in SESP News in April 2022

Joan Trimuel Williams (MS04) has always been inspired by service and advocacy. So when she’s not serving as director of compliance at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine, she volunteers with the Northwestern University Staff Advisory Council (NUSAC) to support colleagues across the University.

As the group’s chair, Williams oversees 25 Northwestern staff members who volunteer time and effort. The group works with other staffers, the University President, the Office of Human Resources, and other administrators to give employees a voice and to help make Northwestern’s educational community an efficient, fulfilling, and attractive place to work.

The council, for example, recently collaborated with the Office of Human Resources to update Northwestern’s incidental sick time and bereavement policies, for example. They now include absences due to mental health and extend time away to 10 days for most familial losses.

"I enjoy trying to find solutions for others, and if not, helping them determine how to stand up for themselves," Williams says.

In addition to Williams, several other alumni and students of the Master of Science in Higher Education Administration and Policy (MSHE) program have joined the council to give back, including Katy DiGiulio (MS16), Erin Libby (MS21), current student Samuel Okun-Perlin, Funmilayo Ojikutu (Cert19), and Valerie Smith (MS17).

They all believe in the power of community, which is at the heart of both MSHE classes and student internship experiences, and a key part of Northwestern’s experiential learning approach to higher education administration and policy.

Learn more about our Master of Science in Higher Education Administration and Policy (MSHE) program.

Students almost immediately begin networking and learning about the field by working in a wide variety of administrative roles at Northwestern and other institutions as part of the MSHE program. Many seek service opportunities, based on their own passions, to deepen their grasp of issues that affect higher education.

"Through organizations like NUSAC, the Association for Northwestern University Women, the Association for Higher Education Administrators’ Development, and other affinity groups, you stay connected and advocate for change in your own environment,” Williams says. “I think it’s mutually beneficial. You lend your skillset by interacting with a diverse group of folks from whom you naturally glean additional knowledge."

Williams started her volunteering career at Northwestern at the Association of Northwestern University Women, where she eventually served as president in 2003. From 2017 through last August, she served as a mentor in the LINK Unlimited Scholars program, a Chicago-based institution that connects African-American youth with high potential to educational, cultural, and professional resources.

She is also the governing board president of Girls on the Run-Chicago, a nonprofit organization that builds social, emotional, and physical skills in thousands of girls across Chicagoland.

Joining NUSAC gave her a broader understanding of Northwestern beyond her role at Feinberg and has helped her understand complex staff challenges that can occur at a university. But it was her experience at MSHE that helped build her confidence and give her a voice, she says.

"They intentionally were always seeking feedback," Williams says of MSHE instructors during her student experience. "I could expound on things and feel really comfortable that my perspective was a valuable asset to the educational experience of not just myself but my classmates."

MSHE Membership in Northwestern University’s Staff Advisory Council

  • Joan Trimuel Williams (MS04): Chair through summer 2022; member since Fall 2018 and completes second three-year term in 2024.Day job: director of compliance at Feinberg School of Medicine.
  • Katy DiGiulio (MS16): Human Resources Committee co-chair; member since Fall 2019. Day job: director of program review at the Office of Administration and Planning.
  • Erin Libby (MS21): Former outreach committee co-chair; member Fall 2016-Spring 2022. Day job: Former manager of the Evanston Support Office for Northwestern University in Qatar.
  • Valerie Smith (MS17); Benefits Committee co-chair; member since Fall 2019. Day job: senior assistant director of admissions at the Office of Undergraduate Admission.
  • Sam Okun-Perlin (current MSHE student); Communication Committee member; member since Fall 2021. Day job: student and financial administrator at The Graduate School.
  • Funmilayo Ojikutu (Graduate Certificate, 2019); member since Fall 2020; Outreach Committee member. Day job: associate director of academic advising at the School of Education and Social Policy.

Contact Us

MS in Higher Education Administration and Policy Program

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Northwestern University

Phone: 847/491-7526