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Martia Williams ’22: ‘I Chose Education and Will Continue to Choose Education Every Day Because of the Students’

Martia Williams

Martia Williams felt like she grew up on NC State’s campus. Her dad, North Carolina Mathematics and Science Education Network Pre-College Program Coordinator Braska Williams, works for the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation,which is part of NC State’s College of Education, and she spent Saturdays and summers with the NC-MSEN Pre-College Program.

When she decided she wanted to pursue a career in mathematics education, the NC State College of Education was an obvious fit. It was also where she realized that while mathematics education was what she was interested in, she was truly passionate about research.

With Assistant Professor Robin Anderson, Williams was able to gain first-hand mathematics education research experience, and she started her own research project on belonging in mathematics that she presented at the NC State Equity Research Symposium. Now, as she prepares to graduate, she is looking forward to continuing her journey as an educational researcher.

Learn more about Martia Williams

Hometown: Knightdale, North Carolina

Degree: Bachelor of Science in Secondary Mathematics Education with a minor in English 

Activities (Research or Extracurricular): Mathematics Education undergraduate researcher (2020-2022), Goodnight Scholars program mentor and STEM coach (2020-2022), North Carolina Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCCTM) member (2019-2022), National Engineering League research intern and national college advisor (2020-2022), Black Campus Ministry member (2019-2020) and president (2020-2022), Illinois State University REU participant (June-July 2021), undergraduate student ambassador (2020-2021), Students Advocating for Youth (SAY) Village member (2018-2021), College of Education Task Force for Advancing Equity, Diversity and Inclusion member (2020-2021)

Why did you choose the NC State College of Education?

I chose the NC State College of Education for several reasons. Both of my parents are alumni, and my dad works here in the College of Education at the Friday Institute. I also participated in the NC-MSEN Pre-College Program here on Saturdays and over my middle and high school summers, so I feel like I grew up on campus. I also liked that NC State is well known for producing excellent teachers and has great support staff in place for all our students in the College of Education, so NC State was obviously the best fit for me. It also doesn’t hurt that I received the Goodnight Scholarship along with other scholarships for a full-ride here at NC State.

Why did you choose your area of study?

Growing up, I always liked math and excelled in my math classes. But I know that not every kid has had that experience, and more often than not most students don’t like math because of their math class experiences. Also, while I had great math experiences in my earlier years, I had some really rough high school math experiences that shaped the way I saw high school math teaching. I thought that students deserved to have motivating and knowledgeable math teachers at the high school level, no matter what their past experiences were in mathematics. So, I wanted to be that support system for high school students, which is why I chose to major in secondary mathematics education.

What do you hope to accomplish in your field after graduation? 

After graduation, I hope to get a Ph.D. in the field of educational equity to conduct research related to belonging in mathematics classroom environments. While I believe that being a classroom teacher can make a huge difference in the lives of students, I want to make a broader impact through research. I have also considered getting involved with educational activism and finding ways to help change some policies that are in place that affect our students, especially black and brown and low-income students who have been historically discriminated against in our public school system. As a former Black public school student, I know that it is my passion to help current and future students like me who are learning in a school system that was not designed for them.

What’s your next step? What do you have planned after graduation?

Currently, my next step is to start a college advising and tutoring business to help Wake County students prepare for college. Our guidance counselors are stretched very thin, especially at the large high schools that we have here in Wake County, and I would like to help those students get the support and guidance they need. I also have plans to apply to Ph.D. programs in the fall to start in 2023.

How has the College of Education prepared you for that next step?

The biggest thing that the College of Education has done to prepare me for my next steps in education is to provide me with perspective. While coming in as a student I had a lot of knowledge about the education system and the kind of role that I thought I wanted to play in that system, learning from other students, faculty and staff about their unique perspectives on education gave me a more holistic view. I also thought that the only way I could make an impact on education was by becoming a classroom teacher first, but I’ve realized that the classroom may not be where I’m supposed to support students, but that I could do that in other ways outside of the classroom.

Do you have a favorite memory from your time in the College of Education?

There are so many memories that I don’t think that I could choose just one, but being in SAY Village and hearing [SAY Village Director] Robin McWilliams‘ dad jokes every week before heading out to field experiences was probably one of my favorite parts of my College of Education experience.

Tell us about an experience you had with the College of Education that had the biggest impact on you or your career.

My experience conducting research with [Assistant Professor] Robin Anderson in the math education department had the biggest impact on me and my career. In my senior year of high school, I had my first experience with research in the field of education when I created a film documentary on the inequality of education in North Carolina. After that experience I wanted to have more opportunities to conduct educational research, so when Dr. Anderson offered me the opportunity to work under her I was so excited. Throughout these past two years, I have learned so much about the broad nature of educational research, co-written a paper that hopefully will be published in the next few years, and started my own research project on belonging in mathematics that I was able to present at the NC State Equity Research Symposium this past February. These experiences have given me a great start to my journey as an educational researcher, and I am so thankful for these opportunities.

Why did you choose education? 

I chose education and will continue to choose education every day because of the students. My teachers in and out of the classroom have made such a huge impact on my life. While not every teacher was the best, the experiences I had learning from them have shaped me as a student and educational leader. I chose education, so I could make those same impacts on other students that have met, will meet or may never meet in the future because of my leadership and service to the field of education.