LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 27, 2021) — What makes UK the university of, for and with Kentucky?
The answer is our people.
We are a community full of individuals who sacrifice for the greater good. During the past year, those sacrifices have been magnified as the University of Kentucky continued its missions of teaching, service, research and healing. There are so many people who worked behind the scenes to make the impossible, possible. In this new UKNow series, we hope to honor some of those employees who had the “heart to step up,” despite the many obstacles presented to them while working during a global pandemic.
This month we talk to Mark Williams, who works as a career advisor in the Stuckert Career Center.
UKNow: What is your role here at UK?
Williams: I am a career advisor in the Stuckert Career Center. We assist students with major and career exploration, while equipping and preparing them with the tools to reach their career aspirations after college.
UKNow: What’s the best part about your job?
Williams: The best part of my job is being able to get students to what I call “bend their reality.” Many students have multiple interests and feel restricted to follow one path and struggle with making career decisions. They live by a linear model of having a plan A, plan B, etc. However, through conversations, research and networking they realize they can combine their interests or change their career over time. I like to get them to explore Plan A1, Plan A2 simultaneously like creeks flowing together towards a river. If a creek dries out, then the other creeks are still flowing.
UKNow: How did your role change due to COVID-19?
Williams: My role changed during COVID-19 in trying to find creative ways to connect and engage with students in a virtual space. There is a difference between making connections virtually and making connections in person, but we were able to still serve the needs of students through programs, fairs, appointments and drop-ins. COVID really showed the power of networking and providing quality services as a lot of the new students that I engaged with during COVID were referred by other students. There was also flexibility in adjusting my schedule to fit certain student needs as well.
UKNow: What inspired you during this past year?
Williams: I would ask myself, "where are there opportunities for change, failure and growth?" This past year, though very difficult in all aspects of life, showed me that curiosity in exploring the unknown can ignite change and alter what is known. I was inspired to hear the world begin to rejuvenate when the world was still for just a week. I was inspired to have difficult conversations about understanding life experiences, while comforting those who were experiencing … life. All of these things collectively inspired me to pursue new initiatives to serve students while making more time to just stop and rejuvenate and enjoy life.
UKNow: What did you learn about yourself and/or your community this past year?
Williams: I learned how to revamp and how to stay engaged in my normal activities. I was able to still maintain a majority of things I was involved in pre-COVID, such as church, bowling, working out and fraternity life. Being able to still stay engaged helped me to manage during COVID and there are some things I will continue doing moving forward.
We hope to highlight different employees from across campus in the “Heart to Step Up” series. If you know someone who went above and beyond during this past year, please email us.
The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers." We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.