Nia Williams graduated cum laude from Wilkes with an environmental engineering degree, becoming the first African American woman to earn that degree at the University.
Williams wasn’t even aware of her accomplishment until her last months at Wilkes. In fact, it didn’t even cross her mind until faculty brought it to her attention because it was never the reason for pursuing her dream.
Williams knows she would have been successful in this field regardless if she was the “second, third, fourth or fifth.”
“I’d still be doing what I am doing. It wouldn’t change a thing about me,” she said. “I guess it has been something that I have always noticed, but I never really thought about it until now. I just found out about being the first, I had gone four years without knowing. I am just doing what I love.”
When Williams first came to Wilkes-Barre, she was worried it wouldn’t be enough to hold her interests. She is a city girl from Baltimore, Maryland who is used to the hustle and bustle of a larger crowd.
“It was definitely a culture shock coming from a bigger city to Wilkes,” she said.
However, Wilkes lived up to its reputation and gave Williams a place where she could strive for greatness.
“It became an environment where I could grow and shine my own light on what I wanted to excel on,” she said.
The love and passion Williams has for the environment is evident by all her work on campus. She was the president of the Society of Women Engineers, president of Students of Environmental Sustainability, and the founder of WakeUp Wilkes, an environmental awareness campaign run by the two organizations. She also organized The Amazing Race in 2016. It brought tenth grade girls to campus to compete in various STEM expeditions.
On top of all her environmental work on campus, Williams was also a resident assistant and a student government representative
Williams’s is now applying for jobs as a water resource engineer and focusing on obtaining her MBA so she can open her own initiative firm that focuses on clean water for developing nations.
“I really had the opportunity at Wilkes to make my time here count,” she said. “I was able to create my own path and make my four years matter. For females and minorities in general, don’t let people intimidate you and marginalize your efforts and your achievements. Mental defeat is the first step to your ultimate downfall. Stay focused.”