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Duane Williams

PhD Family Science and Human Development

Posted in: Spotlights

Headshot photo of PhD student Duane Williams

Program (Degree and Major): PhD Family Science and Human Development

Anticipated Graduation Date: Spring 2023

Why did you choose this field of study? Why did you choose the program at Montclair State University?

Much of my life experiences have shaped how I view the world and more recently, I’ve really been intrigued in understanding human behavior on a more systematic and structural level. My conversations with close friends and families, as well as ongoing issues in society, have allowed me to go on a quest for knowledge; additionally, I know that my ability to educate others within my community is pivotal to addressing inequities in society. The FSHD program at Montclair State aligns perfectly with values that I hold and issues I view as problematic and systemic in society. That made the decision quite vivid in opting to apply to Montclair State.

What are the best parts of your program?

The best parts of the program in my opinion are the conversations, both difficult and interesting, that I am able to have with my peers and various faculty. One of the most important things that contributes to my learning is open and fluid conversations; these happen whether in class, over coffee or tea with faculty, or even in chat rooms created by cohort members! The topics discussed open your mind and provide in depth analysis of issues and processes affecting families in society. Additionally, the ability to conduct research with the guidance of experts in the field provides a rich experience for all involved. The faculty are very supportive and vested in your success; whether you are a seasoned researcher or novice, they are able to walk you through this process in an attainable, pragmatic manner. This reduces any possible anxiety or intimidation that a doctoral program may produce.

What advice would you give to a prospective student in your field?

First – be intentional! Every interaction, every course, and every challenge should contribute to your end goal. Second – plan, plan, plan. Planning your journey (coursework, meeting faculty, thinking of possible research areas, etc.) should be done constantly. This will help to keep you on track. Third – ask questions. Though you are in a doctoral-level program, it is ok to “not know”. As a first-generation college student, this was all new and strange to me. However, once I developed the confidence to ask questions, it made things much more manageable. Fourth – make use of your mentor! The program provides mentors for each incoming student. If someone has gone through the process, even one or two years prior to you, they can help you avoid common pitfalls. A mentor will help reduce inevitable anxiety or stressful periods.

How is your program preparing you for working in your field?

The FSHD program is providing me with a set of skills that allow me to rethink how I approach all areas of my work and personal life. With a strong focus on policy, advocacy, intersectionality, and social justice, I have a framework that guides my decision making in all respects. Additionally, the various family theories learned and explored throughout the coursework portion of the program helps to contextualize how I view the behavior of others. Also, the network of scholars that you are exposed to create a variety of opportunity for future career goals, whether in academia or as a practitioner.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your program, the College of Education & Human Services, or Montclair State University that we haven’t asked about?
Montclair State University has a “big school, small feel” aura; though there are 21,000+ students, you are able to develop meaningful relationships with faculty and staff. Some of these relationships are invaluable and have contributed significantly to my own personal and professional growth.