Dr. Eugene Williams, Dean, College of Education, poses for a portrait on Wednesday, June 8, 2016.(AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

International Spotlights: Eugene Williams

Eugene Williams knows a thing or two about being prepared.

Prior to being named dean of the College of Education in 2016, Williams was instrumental in cultivating Brenau’s burgeoning collaborative education partnership with China’s Anhui Normal University. In 2015, he and Brenau colleague Bryan Sorohan traveled to China, where the two developed — and trained Chinese professors to teach — the preparatory curriculum for students to take at their home school in the first year of the program.

Though known for his soft-spoken management style, Williams commands the respect of his education colleagues. It is, however, a mutual respect that Williams shares for his faculty and staff as they strive to produce quality, caring and career-ready teachers — whether that’s for classrooms here in the United States or 8,000 miles away in China.

“All of our faculty members have been in the public school systems, so when they teach, they’re not just talking about research — they’ve actually been there and have experienced it firsthand,” says Williams, a veteran of K-12 public education who spent 30 years as a classroom instructor and administrator in Georgia schools.

“They are able to tell students exactly how things are and best prepare them for what they will face once they get there.”

That same emphasis on preparation helped Williams and his team quickly adjust when Brenau shifted to virtual learning due to COVID-19. Because the college already had most courses online, Williams says it made for a much smoother transition. Many of the Chinese students attended the morning classes via Zoom, and the classes were also recorded for those who could not attend. Faculty members also made adjustments to their personal schedules to provide a few evening sessions to accommodate the 12-hour time difference for students in China.

“Brenau’s education faculty is student-centered, and we do the things that we are supposed to do, but we also understand that students are individuals,” Williams says. “So you have to make adjustments — but that’s all part of our training, which makes it easier.”

Williams says he is proud of the graduates of the international partnership and can’t wait to meet the new and returning students of the program.

“I’m looking forward to them coming to the campus and the rest of the faculty getting a chance to work with them and get to experience teaching them,” Williams says.

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