Aaliyah Williams loves to help others, especially kids.
It comes naturally for the Kansas City native.
“I was born a triplet, but technically I’m the oldest so I’ve always had a nurturing spirit and a desire to take care of my sisters,” she said. “I worked at multiple nonprofit organizations in Kansas City, which created a passion in working with children and families.”
At Missouri State, Williams found degree programs that matched her interests.
- She earned a bachelor’s degree in child and family development.
- At the same, she fast-tracked toward her master’s degree: early childhood and family development.
Williams took the accelerated option. She earned undergraduate and graduate credit at the same time.
Now, Williams teaches full-time at the Child Development Center. At night, she takes her graduate classes online.
“I think balancing that is saying, ‘If I don’t do homework today, that’s OK. I can go home and watch TV, hang out with friends or do something more relaxing one day. Then, the next day when I get off work, I’ll focus on school,’” Williams said.
Williams has balanced her education with another passion: traveling the world.
Through study away, Williams spent a semester at the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland during her junior year.
She took four classes staggered over a five-month span. Away from class, she traveled Europe.
“They don’t really believe in homework (in Finland), per se, so I had a lot of free time,” Williams said. “I traveled to Sweden, Germany, London, Amsterdam, Italy… I loved it. It was so amazing.”
“Studying abroad gave me insight on the importance of multicultural education. It has influenced me to use multiculturalism in my classroom.”
Her classes at Jyvaskyla included CFD 250 (Parenting in Contemporary Society) and CFD 303 (Multicultural Studies in Child and Family Development).
Every class transferred back to Missouri State. This helped Williams stay on track to graduate.
“The freedom (with courses) of my undergraduate degree was my favorite part,” she said. “Everything transferred back (to MSU) and I was able to graduate in four years.”
Williams enjoyed her time so much that she’s thinking about going to Europe again.
This time, to earn her PhD and start her career abroad.
“Doing my master’s degree is just opening the door for me and getting my thesis (done)… it’s like, ‘If I wanted to get a PhD, I could. I don’t have to, but if I wanted to, I could go and do that,” Williams said.
Williams has had help along her journey.
Kauffman Scholars covered all expenses for her undergraduate degree – tuition, room and board, books and more.
Two on-campus advisors, Cindy Thieman and Ryan Reed, provided guidance and support.
“Cindy, she helped me with the child development side of my (undergraduate) degree,” Williams said. “Ryan (Reed) in Multicultural Services met my overall life questions and helped me with networking.”
Williams will have many career options when she finishes her master’s degree.
She wants to one day work for a non-profit organization that serves low-income populations.
“I want to work more in the community and help families and disadvantaged youth,” she said.