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Williams Named Student Success: Featured Alumnus

Alisa Williams, of Aurora, is Waubonsee Community College’s Student Success: Featured Alum for June 2016.

Waubonsee Community College alum Alisa Williams’ journey through higher education was filled with life detours, but those experiences helped shape the focus and perspective she now has on the importance of mentoring, balancing priorities, perseverance and celebrating milestones along the way.

Now a Senior Finance Administrative Supervisor, Credit Services for Nalco Water, an Ecolab Company, in Naperville, Williams serves on committees and groups through her employer and in the community that foster leadership, mentoring and engagement. She was instrumental in encouraging her husband to pursue and finish his degree at Waubonsee, and two of her three sons have also taken classes at the college.

For her perseverance and her commitment to mentoring and leadership development, Waubonsee is proud to recognize Williams as this month’s Student Success: Featured Alumnus.

Raised in her current hometown of Aurora, Williams graduated from East Aurora High School and enrolled at Northern Illinois University. But after having a baby and finding it difficult to balance the commute to school, studying and child rearing, she took time off, eventually deciding to transfer to Waubonsee.

Williams said current students can learn from a few of her regrets – she did not join clubs or get involved, didn’t take advantage of campus resources and did not attend her commencement ceremony.

“That’s the advice I’d share with students now,” she said. “Getting involved is what makes college feel special, and I really think if I’d attended my graduation, I would have finished my four-year degree sooner, because it would have brought closure on that phase and moved me to the next one.”

Williams said that as an undergraduate, she didn’t understand the value of academic advising.

“Students should use advisers to help them identify and map out their paths,” she said. “No student should walk the education path alone, and there are plenty of campus resources to help lead them toward their goals and dreams.”

Williams said she did enjoy one indulgence during her years at Waubonsee - taking photography classes.

“That was something special and different that I wanted to experience and I did do that,” she said. “It made my experience.”

After completing her degree at Waubonsee, Williams enrolled in Aurora University, but as her family continued to grow, her academic plans were again pushed aside.

“I finally completed my bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Lewis University when I was 38-years-old,” she said. “It took me plenty of time to get there, but I did.”

Today, Williams is pursuing a master’s degree in Organizational Leadership at Lewis University, while also working full time at Nalco. She’s worked for that company for 16 years, and said a classmate in her undergraduate program at Lewis was impressed by her work ethic and skills and recommended her to the person who continues to be her director today.

At Nalco, Williams is involved in an employee resource group for African American leadership, a women’s mentoring group and Toastmasters. She is also the Naperville Region Chairperson for Ecolab’s Community Relations Council, which provides grants to schools and 501c3 organizations in the communities where Ecolab associates live and work.

As part of her master’s degree program, she is currently working on developing a series of leadership development workshops.

“Leadership development is something that is so important, and I’ve been a proponent of helping people realize that in today’s world, leadership development training needs to extend beyond managers and supervisors,” she said.

Williams said Waubonsee provided her with a place to get her continuing path through higher education started, while also meeting the needs of her family.

“High school students are always enamored with the idea of going away to college, but I strongly believe that if you don’t know what you want to do, you need to start at community college,” she said. “It’s a place where you can afford to figure it out at your own pace.”