Dr. Anne Williamson, a nationwide expert in housing policy, has been selected as the new director of the School of Public Affairs at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
“It’s a real honor to join such a talented faculty and a school with marvelous programming,” Williamson said. “The faculty has a strong commitment to community engagement and to issues of social equity. I would like to build on the excellent work that is already happening so that we can be part of the solutions for issues facing communities in the state and the country. We hope to serve as an example of excellence in undergraduate and graduate education and how scholars can be strong collaborators in the community.”
Williamson brings to the table extensive leadership experience in university research centers as well as public service research projects that help local communities.
“Professor Williamson brings with her leadership experience, expertise in the public and private sectors, as well as with university research centers,” said Dr. Sarah Beth Estes, dean of the College of Humanities, Arts, Social Sciences, and Education. “She is adept at working in multidisciplinary teams on pressing community issues such as fair housing and youth homelessness. She is lauded as an exceptional teacher. Her visionary leadership will enhance our ability to collaborate with our community and city as we educate future leaders.”
The UA Little Rock School of Public Affairs brings together academic, applied research, and training units that share a focus on government, politics, nonprofit organizations, and public service. This includes the Arkansas Public Administration Consortium, which provides management training for leaders in the government and nonprofit organizations.
Housed in the College of Humanities, Arts, Social Sciences, and Education, the School of Public Affairs is home to the Master of Public Administration, graduate certificates in conflict mediation, and nonprofit management, as well as a minor in nonprofit leadership studies. The school’s undergraduate programs of study include political science, international studies, legal studies, and community management and development. The school contains 10 faculty members and about 200 students.
Williamson joins UA Little Rock from the University of Missouri – Kansas City, where she served as the Victor and Caroline Schutte/Missouri Professor of Urban Affairs and director of the L.P. Cookingham Institute of Urban Affairs. She earned a Ph.D. in public administration and policy from the University of Georgia and has served on the faculty of the University of Texas at San Antonio and the University of Alabama.
In her new role, Williamson plans to lead the School of Public Affairs to become more engaged in the community and to work with partner organizations to create effective collaborations and solutions to issues at the city, regional, and state levels.
“The world is made up of complexities where no single sector or organization alone can create and implement the solutions that we need,” Williamson said. “When we get into interdisciplinary research and community engagement, this is how we will have the most positive impact in the world. Our mission is to be a source of education and community engagement on issues affecting people and communities.”
One of the programs that Williamson plans to bring to Little Rock is Impact KCK, which was established in 2015 to reduce homelessness among students in the Kansas City Kansas Public Schools. The program reduced student homelessness in KCKPS by nearly 50 percent in less than three years.
“Impact KCK began in the poorest of the 105 counties in Kansas,” she said. “By using effective collaboration and social service innovations to reduce poverty and housing instability, this has resulted in 95 percent housing stability in the families with children served. That was important before the pandemic. Now, it is tough to calculate the amount of people who are facing housing instability or homelessness.”
Her research areas include housing policy, community development, citizen participation, and tax policy.
“All of these areas are interrelated,” Williamson said. “I look at how states have made use of federal resources for affordable housing, participation in public meetings by historically underrepresented groups, and effective means for community collaboration to address complex issues like public student homelessness.”
Before working in higher education, Williamson held leadership roles in state government and the private sector. She has served as director of the Office of Research and Analysis and as a development manager for Georgia’s affordable housing rental programs at the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.
Williamson has led more than 25 externally funded public service research projects, including HOPE VI evaluations, housing needs assessments, citizen participation assessments, community program evaluations, and others. In addition, she has been recognized by the U.S. District Court (South Florida District) as an expert in housing policy. She works to bridge teaching, research, and community engagement activities through university outreach for the benefit of students and the community at large.