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Through faith, Jada Williams has managed to persevere through her past experiences of sexual violence. “It left me in a really dark and low place in my life,” said the Jersey City, New Jersey, native. “However, moving away to Lincoln has helped me heal in a way that I could never have imagined.
“I joined campus organizations such as STARS, a domestic violence advocacy group, and the Know More Sexual Violence Prevention Initiative. They’ve helped me advocate and relate to those who have experienced the same trauma.”
At Lincoln, which Williams has attended on a full academic scholarship, the human services major also served for six months as a volunteer peer educator at the University’s Women’s Center.
In addition, she has conducted extensive research with Melina McConatha, associate professor of psychology and human services—first as a volunteer student research assistant two years ago and, for the past year, as a paid student researcher funded by grants from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation and the National Science Foundation.
“Over the past three years, I have had the opportunity to watch Jada grow into a skilled qualitative researcher, engaged student, and campus community change maker,” said McConatha.
Williams’ research contributed to a chapter, co-authored by McConatha, that explored digital storytelling of violence against trans women of color that appeared in the 2019 book “Queer Intercultural Communication.”
During the past year, she also connected with leaders in sustainable Black food sovereignty locally and globally for curriculum guidance regarding sustainable food studies, a new area of study at Lincoln. “Her intersectional work has led to a database of Black-run food programs in our area and an archival analysis of Black Panther food pantries and their contributions to current human service programs today,” said McConatha.
That research earned Williams the third-place prize in Lincoln’s 2020 Virtual Undergraduate Research Symposium.
“Doing research with Dr. McConatha has been an amazing experience,” she said. “I learned that marginalized communities need more researchers and advocates to bring awareness to the injustices that impact their everyday lives.”
During summer 2019 she also volunteered as a runaway and homeless youth intern at The Door—A Center of Alternatives in New York City and, last summer, worked as a paid work intern for TMR Mental Health Care, a private practice owned by a Black woman that provides psychotherapy to adolescents and adults in Rochelle Park, New Jersey.
Summing up her Lincoln experience, she added, “I have become the woman I never imagined I would become.”
This fall she will be attending Boston College on a dean’s fellowship scholarship to pursue a master’s degree in the college’s Global Social Work Program. “I want to work with a non-governmental or inter-governmental agency like the United Nations as a psychotherapist and community advocate for sexual violence survivors and victims in countries affected by war and natural disasters.”
“I have no doubt Jada will continue to find ways to connect scholarship with social justice,” added McConatha, “and I am selfishly hoping that, one day, she will consider joining us once again here at Lincoln as a professor and leader in the field of human service.”