Harper College

Ten Questions with Dr. Ruth Williams

Dr. Ruth Williams

Dr. Ruth Williams is a student-centered community college leader with a commitment to closing equity gaps and creating a caring campus.

With nearly 20 years of teaching experience and a Doctor of Education degree in community college leadership, she most recently served as assistant vice president of academic affairs and dean of curriculum and instruction at Oakton College. Williams has a wealth of experience and demonstrated success that makes her an asset to any institution.

And lucky us, Harper College is now proud to call her our provost. Her background in developing academic programs, assessing student learning outcomes in and out of the classroom, and cultivating partnerships will serve Harper well.When she's not making progress on equitable student success, you can find her kicking back on the lake in northern Wisconsin. Here are ten questions with Dr. Williams.

1. Describe your perfect day.

My favorite place on Earth is northern Wisconsin. My parents have had a cabin up there since 1978 and, to this day, it’s where I find my greatest peace. So my perfect day would be waking up early at the cabin, going on a long walk with my husband and dog, then spending the rest of the morning sitting on the deck and reading. From there, we’d play a card game (Spite and Malice, our favorite!) followed by an afternoon on the lake. Paddle boarding, sitting in a tube and reading — just vegging out.

2. You could be best friends with any fictional character, who do you choose and why?

Robert Langdon from the Dan Brown book series. We’re both problem solvers, but my brain doesn’t quite work the way his does. I like that he’s drawn to art, history and language and uses them to make connections and solve problems. Very intriguing!

3. What about your life today would most impress your 5-year-old self?

The fact that I have long hair without any big snarls in it! I used to fall asleep in my mom’s lap while she went through my hair with a brush, so yeah, my 5-year-old self would be very excited for us! 

4. What have you changed your mind about over the years?

I’ve always been a rule follower, but I’ve learned that it’s OK to be flexible in some situations. For example, being on time. I’ve always prided myself on being on time for everything, so it drives me nuts when I’m not! But in some social situations, it’s probably more comfortable for everyone if you’re a little late.

5. Who was your role model growing up?

My dad. He’s super handy and one of those people who can fix anything. From my view, there was nothing he couldn’t do. But also, when I was in middle school, he went back to school and got his master’s degree while working two jobs. At the time, I didn’t realize the significance of that. Like I knew he got his master’s degree, but I didn’t know what that meant! But then I got older and pursued my own degrees and came to really admire that he did that. 

6. What’s the last movie you watched and loved?

I recently binge-watched the Harry Potter series. I love the books and and I usually don’t like to watch movies of books I love because it never matches the way I saw it in my mind. But I felt like the Harry Potter movies did a really good job of recreating exactly what I had envisioned!

7. If you could instantly become an expert at something, what would you choose?

The piano. I used to play when I was younger, but I couldn’t find a good teacher. I debated starting up again in 2017, but it was either that or go back to grad school. I chose grad school and it was the right choice. But if I could pick up playing the piano really fast, that would be great!

8. What’s something you wonder about?

I wonder how many people’s ideas it took to create an airplane or an airplane engine. Because it wasn’t just one person who thought of the whole thing. It was the ideas of many that accumulated and came together to build it. Maybe I wonder about this because it’s so complicated and I couldn’t do it, but it’s fascinating to me! 

9. What are you hopeful for?

I’m really hopeful that, in collaboration with faculty and staff, we can focus on the strategies that are having the greatest impact on our students. In particular, those strategies that are narrowing equity gaps. And I’m really hopeful that people know that I’m a partner in that work. 

10. What are you loving most about Harper College?

The people. It’s been great to see all the students on campus! The energy they bring is amazing. When I get the chance to interact and talk with students, I always ask them three questions:

  • What has surprised you most about your experience at Harper so far?
  • If you had a magic wand and could change any two things about your Harper experience, what would they be?
  • And how do you know you will have been successful after you leave Harper College?

And the faculty and staff here are really passionate about the work that they do. It shows in the environments and student experiences that we’ve created.

Last Updated: 3/14/24