Chelsea Williams ’13, Postbaccalaureate Student at Washington University in St. Louis

Photograph by Ashley Gieseking

Major: Sociology, with a minor in applied statistics

Paula Giddings’ influential course: Feminism, Race and Resistance

Empowering lessons: “The first class I took with Paula was my first women’s history class and it had subtopics of the medical industry’s role in black women’s health. I hadn’t really heard about what black women have done except for Rosa Parks. I started going to her office hours, doing my Smithie thing, making sure my papers were OK. It was empowering to know what black women have done in all types of contexts, before slavery, during slavery and after.”

When I decided to become a doctor: “Most of my projects in school for classes were health-related. When I became a senior, I thought, ‘I really should have done premed.’ I hadn’t taken any science classes. When I told Paula I wanted to go to a conference in Chicago on correctional health, she wrote me a letter of recommendation and asked, ‘Have you ever thought about becoming a doctor?’”

How she helped me after Smith: “We kept in touch over the phone and through emails. When a $10,000 scholarship opened up, she helped me write my application essay on diversity. She really sat with my paper and helped me see that empathy was missing from my essay, the idea that doctors have to help everyone they come in contact with— it doesn’t matter who the patient is.”

What makes her a mentor: “She’s really good at keeping in touch with her students. Once you make the connection, it never breaks for her. And her encouragement is gentle— she goes out of her way to help. I could write her at 10 p.m. and she’d get back to me at 11 p.m.”

Compiled by Lindsey Rowe Roberts ’06