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Scholastic Star Shines Abroad - Spring 2021

by Terry Phelps

Woman smiling
Photos provided by Patience Williams. At right, before The New Yorker Festival.

Currently serving as a Fulbright Scholar and English teaching assistant in the Netherlands at Breda University of Applied Sciences, OCU alumna Patience Williams (BA English Magna Cum Laude ’17) is truly a scholastic Star, shining in higher education.

At OCU, she was a Clara Luper scholar, which she said “meant the world to me because I followed in the footsteps of so many men and women who went on to do extraordinary things. My education was paid for, and I wanted to make the most out of that — because I wanted to learn as much and become as much as possible.”

While at OCU, she conducted research on a Creative Active Inquiry Research Scholarship at Yale University with English professor Tracy Floreani.

“Patience is so intellectually curious and has a deep commitment to socially engaged, lifelong learning,” Floreani said. “She exhibits a strong work ethic combined with a personality of genuine kindness and is a delight to work with.”

Williams’ undergraduate work included studies abroad at the University of Oxford and at the University of Oaxaca in Mexico. She presented a seminar at an honors conference in Seattle, and published in OCU’s undergraduate research journal, Stellar, and the English department’s journal, The Scarab. An honors student, she was a member of the Black Student Association and the national English honor society, Sigma Tau Delta, and received writing and research awards.

She said the OCU English department was “amazing. I always felt like I was challenged but also nourished.”

Floreani said Williams “always sought out ways to learn beyond what was available in the curriculum and expand her horizons internationally. She has been known to go to professors’ offices during office hours and ask to look at the bookshelves, inquiring about which titles might fill a specific gap in her reading.

“I knew that she, more than any other student in our program, would appreciate and learn from a trip to Yale’s rare books and manuscripts collection at the Beinecke Library,” Floreani said. “As we worked, I saw how well she absorbed study of the manuscripts as both a student critic and as a young writer. I also knew that I could trust her to organize our findings as a research assistant when we returned home.”

woman on green grass, in front of framed art, and standing in doorway
Photos provided by Patience Williams. Left to right: At the Mrs. Dalloway celebration, at The Barbican, and at Virginia Woolf’s writing room in Sussex, England.

Professor Emeritus Abigail Keegan said Williams “often had read circles around other students and was always, always prepared for class. Not only had she read material, but she had thought deeply about it and was always ready to think more. And she was a wonderful poet, a true wordsmith. Her reading and thoughtful analysis of the works we studied — and her own often stunning creations — revealed the hours she spent preparing before coming to class. She is a brilliant young writer, one of the top three students I worked with during my 30 years of teaching.”

Much of Williams’ writing “explores what it means to be a Black woman writing in contemporary America,” Keegan said. “Her voice emerges within the echoes of diverse literary and cultural allusions, ranging from Black poets to slave narratives and the music of the Beatles and Nina Simone as she asks questions about voice and the idea of the self in the context of a pluralistic society. My sense of Patience, more than any other student I have ever taught, is that she will become a well-known American voice in literature.”

After graduating from OCU, Williams received an Interdisciplinary Fellowship at Rutgers University, where she earned a master’s degree in fiction writing. While there, she received the Fulbright Scholarship to work in the Netherlands.

“My personal research interests deal with the importance of embodiment: ways to lessen feelings of trauma, inadequacy, and fear in marginalized bodies when approaching literary texts,” Williams said. “There’s a lot to work with, now more than ever. I recently gave a presentation for Global Minds Week titled ‘Healing for Humanity: Essential Living Only.’”

Williams will be affiliated with the creators of Dutch Happiness Week and said, “I am in the midst of borrowing a bike and becoming a real Dutchie.”

In the Netherlands, bicyclists have the right of way.

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