2017: Miriam F. Williams

Citation for Miriam F. Williams

Elevated to ATTW Fellow March 15, 2017
 
(Written by Jerry Savage)
 
The elevation of Professor Miriam Williams to the rank of ATTW Fellow is a historic moment in this organization. In a technical communication career that has, so far, spanned over twenty years, Dr. Williams has distinguished herself as a practitioner, , a teacher, a scholar and as an academic program administrator,  and she is now the first person of color to be recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Teachers of Technical Communication.
 
Dr. Williams was drawn to work in technology and its role in government agencies with a high school internship at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. After completing a B.S. degree in Economics she went to work for the State of Texas in policy implementation and training for the State Department of Human Services. Over the next seven years, she worked for Human Services and for the Department of Regulatory and Protective Services, serving in such roles as Project Manager, Regulation Development and Editor, and Program Administrator, managing Regulation Editors. During those same seven years she earned two master’s degrees in Public Administration and Technical Communication. She then held the position of Proposal and Grants Coordinator for Huston-Tillotson College, a leading Historically Black College in Austin. During just 18 months in that position she helped the institution to earn some $400,000 in grants to support student scholarship, faculty technology training, provide seed money for the development of a museum of Central Texas African-American history, and upgrading the institution’s telecommunication infrastructure. She also managed to teach a course in Business Communication there. Two years after leaving Huston-Tillotson she had earned her Ph.D. in Technical Communication and Rhetoric at Texas Tech and began her teaching career at Texas State.
 
As an administrator, Dr. Williams is now directing the Texas State MATC program, leading a nationally prestigious and award-winning faculty team. As a teacher, she has developed eight new courses in technical communication, including five online courses, ranging from ethics to writing to change public policy to multicultural communication, to editing.
 
In addition to articles published in TCQ and our field’s other leading journals, Professor Williams’ scholarship has resulted in an influential textbook on writing in governmental and nonprofit contexts and a truly groundbreaking monograph exploring regulatory writing and its complex roles both in perpetuating racial oppression as well as showing how enlightened technical communication practices can foster democratic practices by government for minority populations. Her projects with Octavio Pimentel, including a special issue of JBTC and an award-winning collection of essays published in the Baywood Technical Communication series, have not only awakened our field to the many ways in which technical communication theory, teaching, and practice intersect with issues of race, culture and identity, but perhaps ultimately even more important, gave voice to nearly a score of young, new scholars, most of them of color, to present work that today, only a few years later, is transforming teaching, program design, practice, and opening up new directions and methodologies for technical communication research that will advance social justice nationally and globally.
 
Miriam Williams is surely deserving congratulations for her many contributions to our field, but let us go beyond congratulations and thank her for the hard work she has done that has transformed so many of us and will continue to influence our field for years to come.

Remarks from Natasha Jones

Miriam is an amazing scholar and mentor. For me, as a junior scholar and a black woman in technical communication,  Miriam has been a guiding light for me both personally and professionally in regard to my academic scholarship and career. I can quite honestly say that meeting Miriam has been life-changing. 
 
I first read her book, Black Codes, as a graduate student. I was honored to be able to review the book for one of the tech comm journals. Undoubtedly, the rigor of her scholarship was impressive. But, perhaps most important for me at the time, was the spirit of her work which demonstrated a true dedication to investigations about the interconnections of technical communication, race, and social justice. In a field that is often viewed as objective and neutral, I immediately appreciated the passion and dedication that was evident in Miriam's work. I NEEDED Miriam's work. I needed the permission, encouragement, and support to be able to research and examine issues of race, of social justice, of equality, and of genuine inclusion within the field of technical communication. Miriam, in her work, before I even met her in person, provided me this space and made way for my voice, years later, to be heard.
 
Miriam has continued to be influential in my life and my career. I turn to her for advice and guidance. I learn from her each time we talk. I am honored to call her my mentor and humbled to call her my friend.

Remarks from Michael Trice

Miriam Williams helped me switch careers and switch lives. She was instrumental to two of the most important documents I've written: my Texas State master's thesis and my Fulbright application. I'll never know what battles she fought in 2008 convincing the Fulbright committee that a relatively young and small field like Technical Communication deserved the opportunity to be considered for the Fulbright, but I'll always be deeply grateful to her for serving as my committee advisor during that once in a lifetime opportunity. The field should also know of the service she provided in ensuring I had that opportunity.
 
Equally importantly, her ethics course presented me with my first opportunity to look at civil online discourse as an ethical issue that fit within the realm of technical communication. I'd be hard-pressed to name a single other class more vital to my eventual research agenda.
 
Miriam was a calm, steady mentor who was always willing to help and always demonstrated a genuine interest in you as a student and as a person. I'm honored to have had the opportunity to work with her and to learn from her. 

Remarks from Emmelyn Wang 王兆馨

Congratulations for your nomination and induction as a Fellow of the Association of Teachers of Technical Writing. Today, we honor your contributions to the many academic and industry-leading professionals whom you've positively influenced. The hallmark of your leadership style is the grace and wit you use to teach and guide purveyors of technical communication. I am grateful for the faith you had in me and my colleagues during my time with you at Texas State University. Thank you for the interaction as you shared your expertise on policies, procedures, ethics and many other topics. We appreciate how you lead the MATC program as the program director and the publications you've written over the years to inform our field.
 
I enjoy keeping in touch with you and for all of the opportunities you've provided for us to give back. You've inspired me to be a lifelong contributor to our field as a practitioner and as an educator. I see the long-term value of Technical Communication applied to profitable business models. I also see the endless possibilities of a higher quality of life in Technical Writing professions. Research in our field is fascinating and connecting to the disruption of technology in the world today.
 
Your energy, warmth, and the ability to lead thought provoking discussions that leave a lasting impression helps inform and push us forward. We honor your contributions to the Technical Writing community as a phenomenal educator.
 
Thank you, Dr. Williams!
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