Student Spotlight

Brittany Fox-Williams, PhD Candidate in Sociology

Brittany Fox-Williams

Where did you grow up? 
Morton, PA.

What drew you to your field? 
The opportunity to study issues related to racial and educational inequality, and the prospect of conducting rigorous research that could point to concrete strategies for reducing inequality in these domains.

How would you explain your current research to someone outside of your field? 
My current research examines Black young people’s relationships with authority figures in the education and justice systems, with the aim of understanding how these relationships can shape their life chances for better or worse.

What is your favorite thing about being a student at Columbia GSAS?
For four summers, I have had the honor of serving as a graduate student mentor to talented groups of underrepresented undergraduate students through the GSAS-Leadership Alliance Summer Research Program.

What resources or opportunities that Columbia provides have been most valuable to you?
There are many, but I’ll name a few:

  • The opportunity to teach my own summer course, and the resources at the Center for Teaching and Learning that helped me design the course
  • A small research grant from the Sociology Department that enabled me complete my MPhil research and turn it into a publishable paper
  • The programming and support offered by the GSAS Office of Academic Diversity

Is there a common misconception about a topic in your field that you wish you could correct?
People outside the academy sometimes confuse sociology with clinical psychology. On a few occasions when I’ve mentioned that I am a sociologist, people have asked if I could counsel them. I’m a good listener, but would not be of much help in that department. Sorry, folks!

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
There are two. The first is bringing my curious, bright, and loving fourteen-month-old daughter into the world. The second is pursuing a PhD. I’m the first in my extended family to do so, so it’s a community achievement.

Who are your favorite writers?
Maya Angelou, Howard S. Becker, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Who is your hero of fiction?
Shuri from Black Panther (played by Letitia Wright). She’s witty, innovative, and brilliant.

Who are your heroes in real life?
My mother and maternal grandmother—talk about phenomenal women! Their hard work, sacrifices, and encouragement have made it possible for me be here today.

Who in your field do you consider to be a role model?
Drs. Alondra Nelson and Prudence Carter. They are extraordinary scholars with inspiring academic careers.

If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
Beyoncé, of course!

What music have you been listening to lately?
Bob Marley has been on heavy rotation lately. I’ve also been listening to some Bossa Nova and Afro-Cuban Jazz.

What is your favorite blog or website?
The Professor Is In: an incredible resource for graduate students.

Where is your favorite place to eat on/around campus?
Max Caffé.