Emma Williams, a residence hall director for South Dakota State University Housing and Residential Life, has received the Outstanding New Professional Award from the Upper Midwest Region – Association of College and University Housing Officers.
UMR-ACUHO is a collection of college and university housing professionals organized to educate, conduct research and provide service to member institutions. Williams received her award in the master’s category, recognizing her outstanding ability and potential as a new professional in college student housing.
Williams has been a full-time employee with Housing and Residential Life since spring 2021 and graduated from SDSU with a master’s degree in communications in May 2021. She supervises two graduate assistants and 32 student staff members while overseeing a highly active community that houses approximately 950 residents.
Williams stepped into a full-time role when there was a lot of change within the department’s professional staff team, with several veteran residence hall directors departing and changes within mid-level roles. Her colleagues praised her as a leader and for seeking out opportunities for personal and professional growth.
“As a leader, Emma came in and took ownership of her hall staff team and quickly filled in the leadership void within the department in a positive and productive way,” said Rebecca Peterson, director of Housing and Residential Life at SDSU.
Peterson listed several examples of Williams’ active involvement in the housing profession in a short time.
In fall 2022, Williams presented at the Upper Midwest Region – Association of College and University Housing Officers conference, her first housing conference. In February 2023, she was the search chair for a residence hall director search committee and led the SDSU team to the Oshkosh Placement Exchange, a national higher education job placement exchange. It was the first time in several years that SDSU representatives attended the exchange, and it would not have been accomplished without her commitment and dedication to both the housing profession and SDSU.
In early summer 2023, Williams attended the Regional Entry Level Institute, where she was able to learn more about housing operations. She also serves on various committees and boards at SDSU and beyond.
“Emma understands the value of both learning from the association as well as giving back,” Peterson said. “Emma’s ability to grow, mentor, support and champion students and other colleagues is far superior to that of her peers. She regularly invests time in providing coaching and support and fosters connections to encourage growth and leadership skills. I’m so incredibly grateful for all that she has done for this department and our residents.”
Nathaniel Condelli, assistant director for residential life and Williams’ supervisor, agreed, noting that she serves as a leader and mentor for three new residence hall directors.
“Emma has encouraged them through their first student staff conflicts, has sat in on conduct meetings to help guide them, and has helped them with their transition from student staff to full-time professional staff,” Condelli said.
“Emma is someone who holds herself to a high standard and demonstrates servant leadership, while always bringing the attention back to the core of our work, the students.”
Maryke Taute, associate director of operations for Housing and Residential Life, said Williams is invested in the success of students and the department.
“Housing needs leaders like Emma. She is eager and invested in the success of students and Housing and Residential Life. She is not afraid to jump into the chaos of a new and challenging situation or to be the first person to volunteer, and yet she knows when to sit back and let others take the lead,” Taute said.
“Emma is adept at problem solving, developing solutions and thinking critically and strategically about short- and long-term impacts of action. Emma is adaptable and often adjusts her schedule to respond to immediate needs. She is attentive to immediate needs while maintaining a proactive approach to improving processes for future success.”