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Five Questions with ETSU admissions director Ramona Williams

Brandon Paykamian • Sep 26, 2018 at 11:34 PM

Ramona Williams has been a member of the East Tennessee State University community since she was a 17-year-old enrolling to major in political science.

Williams, now ETSU’s vice provost of enrollment services and executive director of admissions, eventually chose to stay on campus to work as a staff member in 1985. Over the years, she’s witnessed the growth and evolution of the campus of 15,000.

On Tuesday, Williams spoke to the Johnson City Press about her professional life at ETSU and her personal interests and hobbies.

Williams Briefly: 

Dogs or cats: Dogs

Favorite TV shows: Travel and food shows. 

Favorite local restaurant: La Cucina Italian Kitchen 

Pet peeve: “When people aren’t polite.” 

Hobbies: Yoga, attending concerts and traveling. 

Favorite musicians: Robert Plant, Bleu Jackson, the Corklickers, Kenny Chesney, James Taylor, Fleetwood Mac, Pigeon Kings, the Rolling Stones, Garth Brooks, the Doobie Brothers and Old Crow Medicine Show. 

What led you to ETSU as a student and later as a staff member? 

“My mother went to school here, so when it came time to decide where I was going, ETSU was the obvious choice. I grew up in Bluff City, went to Sullivan East High School and so I just came to ETSU 17 miles from home when I was 17, and I’ve been fortunate enough to stay. It’s been a fabulous place to work and grow. I work with fabulous people, and the students here are amazing.”

What have been some of your most memorable ETSU moments? 

“As an undergraduate, I lived on campus and was involved in a sorority. That was a perfect fit for me. It’s not a perfect fit for everyone, I realize that. I was able to meet some amazing women who I am still good friends with. We take trips a couple times a year, and I know their children, so I feel very fortunate to have been able to make those friendships at such a young age and still be friends with them 30-plus years later.”

What’s your favorite aspect of working at ETSU, and what have you learned from your position?

“I was very young when I first started working here, and I had wonderful support from two women who were my supervisors — one being Dr. Sally Lee, who is now retired from student affairs, and Bonnie Birchet from housing. They were very influential and supportive when I was a brand new, young professional. When I messed up or made mistakes, they used them as teaching moments. You always learn from your mistakes when you have a supervisor that’s supportive that way.”

What kinds of qualities do you think someone working in education should have?

“I think you have to have a drive and determination to work hard. You have to be able to learn and grow and change — you can’t be stagnant, you have to be flexible and reliable. If you say you’re going to do something, you need to do that to the best of your ability, and not be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

“That’s why you need to have a team that has new people and new ideas and new ways of approaching problem-solving. Your team needs to have a good mix.”

What’s an interesting fact about yourself outside of your work?

“Most people probably wouldn’t think I go to as many concerts as I go to. I love concerts. I haven’t seen this band, but I love the Revivalists, and they’re playing Black Mountain in October.

“I’ve seen a lot of concerts in the last 10 years or so. I’ve always been a big music person.”

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