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Anona Smith Williams ’91MS, ‘02EDD Receives NC State College of Education’s 2023 Distinguished Alumna Award

Anona Smith Williams and Paola Sztajn
Anona Smith Williams, right, with College of Education Dean Paola Sztajn.

Throughout her career, Anona Smith Williams ’91MS, ’02EDD has worked to create a sense of community for students, including in the NC State College of Education, where she has served for over three decades and is currently the associate dean for student success and strategic community engagement.

“Every job I’ve had, I’ve treated students like I am now your family; you are connected,” Smith Williams said. “And that has followed me through every job I’ve had.”

In honor of all she has accomplished as a champion for student success and community engagement, Smith Williams has been named the NC State College of Education’s 2023 Distinguished Alumna and was recently honored during NC State’s Evening of the Stars Gala.

“When the Wolfpack family calls, you should answer,” Smith Williams said. “Whenever a university that has invested in you needs something, you should try to give back to that university.”

Smith Williams has given back to the college in a multitude of ways. She had led efforts to increase enrollment, retention and graduation of students; designed and implemented pre-college programs such as the Education Scholars Program and Leadership Institute for Future Teachers (LIFT); helped lead the creation of the college’s Dean’s Scholars and Transformational Scholarships Program; and acted as mentor and supporter to countless students and their families. As a member of the College of Education’s leadership team for more than two decades, Smith Williams has continuously worked to promote goals related to student success and has served as an ambassador to external organizations on the state and local level.

“Dr. Anona Smith Williams has been an outstanding alumna and an incredible advocate for our College of Education, our students and the entire field of education,” NC State College of Education Dean Paola Sztajn said. “Through her work, service and leadership, she has touched the life of many students enrolled in our college since she started working at the College of Education. Our students and alumni have had no greater advocate, and she has set the example of what it means to be a College of Education-prepared educator and leader.”

For Smith Williams, it has not just been about creating a sense of community for students in the college, but it has also been about preparing them to achieve success as College of Education alumni.

“We have teachers out there who are getting awards; we have administrators who are changing school districts. So when I hear from them, ‘Oh, now I’m a provost,’ that’s what it’s all about,” Smith Williams said. “It’s about helping students come in as first-year students, getting them to make that personal transformation, walking across that stage and getting out there and doing something.”