Carving a New Path through Experiential Learning
When she was a little girl, Kwentoria Williams, dreamed of being a doctor. But as she grew up, she realized her strengths lay elsewhere. With an affinity for leadership and organization, she set her sights on a career in hospital administration. After graduating from the University of Texas at Dallas with a degree in healthcare studies, a master’s degree seemed like a logical next step.
“I chose TWU for several reasons. Program accreditation was essential for me. I wanted a degree from a reputable institution that would speak volumes about my professional preparation. In addition, TWU has bred generations of everyday greatness in healthcare. The opportunity to contribute to such a legacy ultimately led to my decision to attend TWU,” she says.
During her first year in the HCA master’s program, Kwentoria learned of a program called Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) that was established to enhance student learning through experiential learning. The idea behind the program is to offer students an opportunity to work on live projects, with the help of a faculty mentor, that pertain to their field of study. Thus, gaining “on the job” experience in a safe, academic environment.
For Williams, the experiential learning program was her opportunity to dive deeper into a subject that she was passionate about: Texas health policies. “I became interested in health policy as I watched the constant ebb and flow of the Affordable Care Act during my undergraduate career. I have studied this legislation and its [prospective] changes intensively,” she said. “The research I conducted as an Experiential Student Scholar, ‘Advocating Community Health with Community Health Workers,’ sparked a genuine interest for advocacy in me. I began to seek professional avenues to make my voice heard to legislators about the health care needs of their constituents.”
In fact, her research has led her down a much different career path than she originally intended. Williams had just left a presentation venue at a local Houston community center, when the district director from U.S. Representative Al Green’s office walked in. Seeing an opportunity for her student, College of Business Professor Anne Selcer, Ph.D., approached the director about the work and research Williams had done.
“As an associate professor, I have the golden opportunity to teach the next generation of leaders in health care. I have had numerous, amazing students, but I have only had one Kwentoria Williams,” said Dr. Selcer. “I truly admire her professionalism, tenacity, superb communication, and advanced competencies regarding health-related issues. She truly has a passion for the health of underserved communities.”
Impressed by Dr. Selcer’s recommendations, it wasn’t long before the Congressman’s office came calling.
Williams was hired as a summer intern to work at the Congressman’s Houston office. After a successful internship, she was hired on as a full-time, staff assistant this fall. “I’ve been with the ‘Green Team’ for about a month now, and I love it! I oversee the Congressman’s district healthcare affairs, the Red Cross hurricane relief efforts in our district, and several other community affairs as designated,” says Williams.
Williams’s passion for her new role is easy to hear in the words that speaks. The dreams and plans for working as a hospital administrator it seems have been put on hold for now in order to achieve a different dream.
“This is important to me because often legislators have no way to relate to the healthcare needs of the communities they represent since they are seemingly far removed from these issues,” she says. “They need people who are connected and adjacent to the community to be a voice and ensure health policies increase equity, access, and quality of care and decrease cost for all.”
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