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Interview with John T. Williams, January 28, 2003 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with John T. Williams, January 28, 2003
January 28, 2003
John T. Williams discusses his career at UNCW. Dr. Williams came to UNCW in 1972 as the first chair of the new psychology department. He remained chair until 1991, when he stepped down to teach full-time. Highlights of his career at UNCW include teaching summer courses on animal behavior in the rainforests of Costa Rica; hosting international meetings of the International Behavioral Society in Wilmington in 1975 and 1991; and overseeing extensive growth in the psychology department and at the university.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Williams, John T. Interviewer: Lack, Adina Date of Interview: 1/28/2003 Series: Voices of UNCW Length 55 minutes

Lack: Good morning. My name is Adina Lack. I’m the archivist and special collections librarian at UNCW. I am here to perform an oral history interview of one of our retired faculty members.

Lack: Please state your name.

Williams: I’m John Williams from the psychology department.

Lack: Thank you Dr. Williams. I’d like to begin with some introductory background information. Where were you born and where did you grow up?

Williams: I was born in Missouri, but I lived most of my young life in Texas with a little bit of time out in southern California.

Lack: Oh okay, describe your education background and career before you came to UNCW, or Wilmington College, or in your case I guess it would be UNCW.

Williams: I did my undergraduate work partly at SMU and partly at the University of Texas in Arlington and then I went to the University of Florida for my graduate work where I got my Ph.D. in 1967.

Lack: What brought you to Wilmington?

Williams: Actually I came here as sort of a fluke. I started teaching at the University of South Carolina. I was there for five years. I did receive tenure there, but I was unhappy with certain things in the department. I was at a learning conference in Raleigh and had somebody come up to me at a coffee break and ask the group I was in was anyone interested in a job. I said no, but then I went back to him a few minutes later and asked what kind of job and discovered they were looking for a chairman to form a psychology department at UNCW and that was my first contact with the school.

Lack: That piqued your interest.

Williams: Yes, it did. One of the things that I was unhappy with in the program at South Carolina is that it seemed like the undergraduate students weren’t really cared for adequately. They were generating most of the credit hours, but very little of the faculty interest was going toward them.

Lack: Very interesting that you were interested in an institution that would not have that approach.

Williams: Right, another factor is that I had done some field research on fish behavior and the emphasis at UNCW on marine sciences was another thing that appealed to me.

Lack: So how did things start rolling from there? Did someone contact you?

Williams: Yes, I was invited for an interview and this was in June during summer school, but something that may be hard to imagine to people today at UNCW, when I arrived on campus for the interview and went to the administration building, it was completely deserted. I couldn’t find anybody at all in the building. At one point, someone started walking down the hall. I said, “You wouldn’t happen to be Dr. Cahill would you” and it was. So that was my first contact on campus.

Lack: Very casual it sounds like. So when was that?

Williams: This was in June of 1972. I interviewed for several days. This led to an offer and I finally accepted it and moved here one Friday in August. After spending much of the day moving things into my house, I had a brief discussion with Dr. Cahill and he said that he would like a revised teaching schedule and a budget proposal for the department by Monday. So things were fast and furious from day one.

Lack: And just for the people that might not know, Dr. Cahill was dean at this time?

Williams: At that time, there technically was not a dean. He was the vice-chancellor for academic affairs and I think had a dual title of provost so he was the chief academic administrator. He reported directly to Chancellor Wagoner and at that time the chairs reported directly to him.

At the time I interviewed, UNCW had a student body of 1260 and it jumped to about 1600 in the fall of ’72 with 80 some odd faculty members so it was really a very different place than it is today.

Lack: That’s a huge jump for the fall semester. What brought that on, do you recall?

Williams: Well we went through a period during which the school was growing at about 15% a year. So this was a huge jump percentage wise, but it wasn’t very different than things over the next five or six years. At the time I got here as I may have mentioned, it was the founding of the department. Prior to that there had been two psychologists in a joint education and psychology department plus two psychologists in the counseling center who taught part-time.

Lack: The two psychologists on the faculty full time, was that Michael Bradley?

Williams: Yes, Michael Bradley and Elmer Davidson were the full time psychologists at that time.

Lack: Were people excited about forming a new department?

Williams: Well I certainly was and the people in the department were. It was very much a period of uncertainty. There had been some things going on with the psychology program prior to that that were pretty bazaar by current standards such as people teaching courses they’d never even taken. That was one of the first things we changed, was nobody would teach a course unless they were highly qualified to do so.

This dictated our hiring over the first few years in that we would identify our biggest gap in terms of coverage of expertise and go for somebody in that field. Over the next 10 years, we hired about one and a half faculty a year on average. So there was a period of tremendous growth, but despite adding these faculty we had a tremendous student overload as well.

Lack: Was a lot of your time then spent on faculty recruitment?

Williams: That was the heavy emphasis. The process of recruiting was one might think primitive at that time in that we were allowed to bring in one person and essentially vote up or down. Also we were typically bringing in people to recruit against not existing positions, but projected positions which were contingent upon the activity of the legislature.

So if the legislature went overtime as they occasionally did, the hiring process could be quite disrupted. So one of the major improvements is when we started recruiting against existing positions rather than projected ones.

Lack: Oh I see, gave some security.

Williams: Yes, it’s very uncomfortable to make a tentative offer and tell someone I’m 90% certain we’ve got a job for you. We lost a few good prospects because of that.

Lack: Who did you recruit that’s still here?

Williams: Well the first person that was recruited to the department was Andy Jackson who is the current department chair. Kathleen Kowal was also recruited at the end of the 1972-73 academic year, but Andy came on in mid-year.

Lack: Is Kathleen Kowal retired?

Williams: She’s on phased retirement right now.

Lack: Like you?

Williams: Yes.

Lack: That’s a good deal of recruitment. Did you work in conjunction with Dr. Cahill on that?

Williams: Yes, of course.

Lack: He also is coming into talk with me, we’re setting up an appointment for some time as things get warmer maybe. You mentioned that when you came to the university and came into the administrative building which I guess was Alderman, it was pretty deserted. Even though it was summer, you still expect some people I’m sure especially coming from a big university like USC. What else impressed you about the town or UNCW when you first arrived or your first few months here?

Williams: Well the first few months here, I was totally enamored of being able to drive 10 minutes and be at the beach. So I spent a lot of time out on the water mainly paddling around in marshes and things of that nature.

Lack: In a kayak?

Williams: Yes and just thoroughly enjoyed the mix of the old south and the new, invigorated aspects of the town. I was pleasantly surprised at the activity in the fine arts, broadly defined, for a town the size of Wilmington.

Lack: Really, even before then? And that was before I-40 came out to the coast.

Williams: It was long before I-40 came out I used to ride my bicycle to work most of the time and I’d come down College Road which was two lanes through the pine trees.

Lack: Really? That must have been nice. So you liked the small town. How long did you remain chair then?

Williams: I was chairman of the department for 19 years. It’s probably about twice as long as any sane person should remain chairman.

Lack: That is a long time. You and Dr. McGivern both, he was chair for almost that long I think, if not… You were chair until 1991 and then you stepped down.

Williams: Yes, I went back to the classroom at that point. Now there was one early event that I think is noteworthy. In 1975, we hosted the international meeting of the Animal Behavior Society. We were expecting possibly 200 people. The largest meeting they had prior to that was about 325 and that was at the University of Illinois. Most of the meetings had been much smaller than that, but you know I wanted to have a good meeting so I sent out a lot of advertising and we wound up with over 600 people which was particularly interesting since at that time UNCW only had one dormitory and it had a maximum capacity of 400. So we booked blocks of rooms in several of the motels down on Market Street and ran shuttle buses to them.

Lack: That’s great. I mean I guess it was a mixed blessing, but all of your advertising paid off. People wanted to come to this part of the country perhaps.

Williams: Yes, we drew more people from surrounding states than we normally would, but it just turned out that Wilmington was an attractive location. It was an awful lot of work This was in the days before computers. Things were done mainly by hand. It was hard work. The entire department was involved including a lot of students who were semi-volunteers. We told them if there was some money left over at the end of the meeting, we’d pay them. Otherwise we wouldn’t so we got to pay them a little bit.

Lack: Was this during the summer?

Williams: It was during the period of late May or early June.

Lack: I see, were the students told they could come to the meetings?

Williams: Oh yes and probably the nicest thing about it is that students were meeting people that they had read about in their textbooks. The keynote speaker came from Scotland and it really was a big deal.

Lack: Especially back then. They’re weren’t so many big conferences here.

Williams: Right. And in 1991, we had a second meeting of the Animal Behavior Society here on campus. At that time UNCW became the first school to have hosted the meeting twice.

Lack: Really? How many people came to that?

Williams: It was probably around 500, I don’t remember exactly, but we had about 20 different countries among those who were attending.

Lack: That’s great. That’s the kind of thing that we like to hear about, international conferences and things that went on that people don’t really know about unless you were there.

Williams: And there were I think two symposia at the 1975 meeting that formed the basis for books that were published. I think the farthest anyone came for that meeting was from Australia.

Lack: Those were held at a time near the conference or before the conference or something like that?

Williams: Well the symposia were incorporated into the conference.

Lack: Oh I see, they came far away for that. It’s great to hear about that. Is that your area of research, animal behavior?

Williams: Yes, my field is animal behavior. The most fun I’ve had teaching since I’ve been here has been over the past few years. I teach a summer course on rainforest animals in Costa Rica. We spend an intense two weeks on campus going over the academic part and then we spend a couple of weeks in Costa Rica hitting several different rainforest areas and that’s been a very gratifying teaching experience because of the enthusiasm and the amount that the students get out of it.

Lack: Oh yeah, the international experience. When did you last teach that?

Williams: Well I’m actually scheduled to teach it this year. I took a group to Australia in 1996 and I’ve taken students to Costa Rica every summer since then except last year when one of my colleagues filled in for me.

Lack: Oh, that’s great. How many credits do they get for that?

Williams: Right now it’s a four credit course. It was a five credit course, but I cut back. Now that I’m on phased retirement, if I teach that course, I only get half pay so I cut my work load a little bit.

Lack: What else are you teaching now or what did you teach throughout your career?

Williams: Well my staple course for about 30 years was animal behavior. I taught general psychology for 20 or 25 years and then decided that I had burned out on that course. For the last 10 or 11 years, the main course I’ve been teaching is a statistics course that’s required for psychology majors. That’s an interesting experience since most people who are attracted to psychology either don’t like math or aren’t very good at it.

Lack: Or both. I would think that’s a good course though because you can make the problems geared toward psychology. It’s not like taking statistics with a bunch of math or business majors.

Williams: Right, there is still the core of math.

Lack: Yeah, you can’t get around that. They still have to face that. You taught last semester, is that right?

Williams: That’s correct.

Lack: Is this your final year?

Williams: I will teach full time again next fall and beyond that, it would just be a matter of course by course on a part-time basis.

Lack: Well that sounds like a good deal. What else do you like to do in your off time?

Williams: Well I like outdoors activities. My primary one is cycling and since I had time off last spring when I wasn’t teaching, I managed to get in 6,000 miles last year on my bicycle. I enjoy kayaking. I live on Hewlett’s Creek so I’ve got a kayak on the dock and ready to go anytime I want to.

Lack: Oh great, wow! Do you have animals also?

Williams: I’ve got a couple of cats, but mainly I enjoy seeing animals in the wild. For many years, I fantasized travel rather than doing it. When I was 39, I realized one day that I had wanted to go to Africa since I was 6. I’d seen a traveling show at that time with films and slides of Africa. The Africa I wanted to see when I was very young was no longer there, but I figured it sure wouldn’t be there in another 20 years.

So I went and spent a month on a really low budget safari in Tanzania. I decided at that point that it was really worth the time and the money to travel so I’ve been traveling on a fairly regular basis ever since. Much of it has involved going to out of the way places particularly those that are rich in wildlife, but I’ve managed to visit all seven continents, most of them two or more times.

Lack: Really?! You’ve been to Antarctica then?

Williams: Yes I have.

Lack: How was that?

Williams: Antarctica was wonderful. It was much like Alaska, but on a grander scale. Of course the wildlife is different, the penguins are great fun. I had the dubious distinction of going swimming there on Christmas day, maybe for 40 seconds, I didn't stay long.

Lack: Wow, that’s quite impressive. Do you enjoy zoos or not so much?

Williams: No, I don’t enjoy zoos unless they are extremely well done. My main problem is that traditional zoos and even a number of modern ones will have small numbers of animals that in a natural habitat would live in large groups. I would much rather see animals in their natural habitat where they’re behaving naturally.

Lack: I see, because when they’re in small groups, it’s just not the same.

Williams: It’s not the same. It’s not the social environment that they have evolved to live in and often it’s kind of sad seeing them in those situations.

Lack: Are there any zoos that approach a good level of …

Williams: Well North Carolina zoo has some nice goals and exhibits, but I don’t enjoy it as much now as I did the first time I went to it. I don’t think it’s lived up to the goals and ideals of those who first planned it.

Lack: They’ve had some problems I guess with funding.

Williams: Funding is always a problem.

Lack: The San Diego Zoo, have you been there?

Williams: I haven’t been there. It certainly has a good reputation, but I worry perhaps that it’s reputation is based on being one of the first of the sort of new breeds of zoos.

Lack: Getting back to the department, I suppose under your watch, the department instituted a graduate program?

Williams: That’s correct. Basically we grew so at the point when I ceased being chairman, we had 20 some odd faculty members and we had a newly instituted Master’s program. If you stay around long enough, there’s some interesting things that happened. About three years ago, I had a student who’s parents were both students of mine.

Lack: Really!

Williams: And we also have a couple of faculty members in the department who were students at UNCW including Julian Keith who took general psychology from me.

Lack: Wow, I did not know that. There’s some people in biology too who were students here. I know the department has been very active in research. One thing that we do in the archives is we attempt to gather all of the papers, articles written by faculty members. We view it as part of the institutional history. A lot of times faculty members will say why do you want my work.

Well it’s really interesting, it shows where we were and what kind of scholarship people are pursuing and also it’s a safe place for your research. A lot of times people might not keep up with it and if something happens to your own personal files, you know you can always come to archives. Recently we did a whole bunch of research just trying to find psychology articles and we got a lot. Since you got here, has there been more of a push on research?

Williams: Most definitely. In fact I was somewhat surprised to learn a couple of years after I’d been hired that the main concern of the administrators at the time I was hired was that perhaps I was too heavily invested in my research. So the question was whether I would be willing to spend enough time on teaching and administrative duties.

There was also a time when there was an idea kicked around that research wouldn’t even count toward tenure and promotion. Obviously that never occurred and I don’t think that it was ever a viable idea, but the fact that it was even discussed says something about the changes in the institution over the years. Also it might be interesting to know that when I interviewed and asked about the long term plans for UNCW, I was told that the plan was to basically let the school grow at its own rate until it hit about 5,000 or 6,000 and then cap it there.

Lack: Really?

Williams: And then a few years later, they said let’s cap it at 8,000 and then they were saying 10,000 and I’m not even sure what the current plans are.

Lack: Yeah, I don’t know if they’re talking about…I mean they certainly haven’t stopped I don’t think. Like say let’s cap it here.

Williams: But the situation has been basically the same for the last 30 years. Space has been the limiting factor on growth, space and the number of faculty. We add those things, we add students.

Lack: When you came here the chancellor was Dr. Wagoner?

Williams: That’s correct.

Lack: And currently it’s Dr. Leutze. I suppose about when you stepped down from chair is when Dr. Leutze came on?

Williams: That’s correct.

Lack: How were the two different? Did you get to know Dr. Wagoner quite well during your time here?

Williams: I got to know him fairly well. I never was particularly close even though we did discuss a number of issues. I think one of the keys to Dr. Leutze’s success is that he wanted UNCW to move in the direction that it was already going. The majority of the faculty had already taken on a more research oriented, larger school mentality.

I’ve had some mixed feelings over that myself personally. I wasn’t really sure whether it would be a good move for UNCW to develop graduate programs or not at one time. I was afraid that we might have a choice between being an excellent undergraduate school or a mediocre graduate school. But I’ve been very gratified at the development of the quality, particularly of the faculty, over the last 10 to 20 years.

Lack: I don’t know if this was with psychology, but I remember hearing with some of the other departments that it was sort of handed down that you will have a graduate program, a Master’s program, what sometime in the mid-70’s or so?

Williams: Well what happened from the standpoint of psychology is that at the point when UNCW decided to develop graduate programs, we decided to propose one and the administration at that time wasn’t particularly supportive of psychology and so the first time that the program was proposed, it was actually killed at a statewide level and the main argument I heard was that UNCW was asking for too many programs, they couldn’t all be proposed and somebody decided psychology wouldn’t go in at that point.

We in the department were quite disappointed in that we thought research activity in our department coupled with the student population and the popularity of the program meant that we should have a program and so several years later we reapplied. It was approved at that time.

Lack: What was the date of that again? I don’t know if you mentioned that.

Williams: Okay, I would have to check, but it was first proposed approximately three years before it was actually approved, maybe two years, maybe three years.

Lack: And now, how many students come in every year?

Williams: Approximately a dozen, I don’t know the exact numbers to be real honest. I haven’t paid a whole lot of attention to those things over the last couple of years.

Lack: That’s understandable.

Williams: I’ve been phasing into retirement psychologically as well as physically.

Lack: And perhaps administrative aspects you can leave behind a little bit more easily.

Williams: The nicest thing about the transition from regular faculty to phase retirement is cutting out of those things.

Lack: Committees.

Williams: I was quite active in various committees and the faculty center and things of that nature over the years, but it drains a lot of energy. It’s important, it would be a shame if they didn't find people who were interested in doing those things, but having been chairman for 19 years and moderately active for 6 or 8 years after that, I was ready to put that behind me.

Lack: What committees were you involved with?

Williams: Well one of the ones that I chaired periodically was the academic standards committee, but over the years I’ve served on almost every committee on campus. In the first few years I was here, I was particularly active. For example, I chaired the first committee that dealt with trying to develop student evaluations.

Lack: I’m sure as a new person and a new chair, there’s a lot of work to be done, just getting things going.

Williams: Yeah and I was most definitely learning on the job.

Lack: Did that work out for the most part?

Williams: Well it worked fairly well. It’s also interesting that in the early years as chairman, my teaching load was 9 hours a semester which is what a typical faculty member who’s not a chairman teaches today. I think the standard load for a chair is probably about 3 hours now. So I think I was basically a three quarter time faculty member and a three quarter time administrator.

Lack: When you first came, did you feel like you knew a lot of people throughout the university? I guess there were chairmen meetings at the time.

Williams: Yes, in fact that’s one of the almost bittersweet things about it. I know a much smaller percentage of the faculty now than I knew when I’d been here even one year and certainly when I’d been here two or three years, I knew a very high percentage of the faculty.

Lack: Now it’s just too huge. You know some of the people perhaps that you came with or were here for a long time. Who would you recommend that we talk to? Perhaps I can tell you that we’ve already talked to them, but are there other people that might be a good idea for us to interview as part of this oral history project?

Williams: I don’t have names for you off the top of my head, but I think basically it would be worth talking to anyone that’s been here more than 25 years.

Lack: It’s funny when we do contact some people who have been here 20-25 years, they say they haven’t been here that long compared to some people. Well you still have your own perspective that we want to hear about.

Williams: One person I ran into very recently off campus was Frank Ensley. He was hired in 1973 and he came in ABD and they said you have to finish your dissertation this year. They gave him eight separate courses to teach his first year on campus.

Lack: Eight separate courses throughout his year, oh my goodness.

Williams: But he did it and so I’m sure his view of the early years at UNCW would be quite interesting and quite different from mine.

Lack: Oh yeah and a number of people went to get their doctorate at that time. I don’t know if there was anyone in your department.

Williams: One of the things we were proud of in the first decade of the department was the fact that psychology was the first all doctoral department on campus. We hired few people ABD, but other than some part-time teaching, we didn't use any Master’s level people unless they were in the process of completing their doctorates.

Lack: Wow, so that formed a good base.

Williams: And eventually we reached the point where our part-timers were all doctoral level.

Lack: Did you continue doing research while you were chair? Was it hard to find time to do it all?

Williams: Well one of my regrets is that I basically set aside my research. I thought maybe after five years I’d get back to it, but the duties of chair really did take more time than I anticipated. The department grew at a much more rapid rate than I had anticipated and there was also some shift in my interest so that I was more interested in doing the kinds of things that were long term labor intensive instead of short and dirty experiment. So I have actually published relatively little during the time I’ve been at UNCW.

Lack: Would you say your interests are still considered experimental?

Williams: As I’ve said, my field is animal behavior. My doctoral research dealt with learning in Caymans which are kind of the first cousin to alligators and so I looked at the learning process across a number of different types of animals, but I also had a graduate minor in zoology and my interests are really in many ways much like those of the field biologist.

So the year after I stepped down as chair, I took a semester off on a reassignment and went out and did research in Yellowstone Park on the ____ there where I was looking at social behaviors, pack structures and things of that nature. I’ve been out there on about three occasions since, maybe four.

Lack: Do you film a lot when you’re there or do you mostly take notes?

Williams: Yeah, I took a video camera the first time I went, but I was not happy with the quality of what I got. I mainly took notes. I’d use a small tape recorder and speak into it. Then I discovered later what a terribly hard time consuming job it is to transcribe those notes. I had approximately two to three dozen tapes full of notes.

Lack: I can imagine. It’s kind a bit like ethnography but with the animal kingdom. It’s very labor intensive I can imagine, a lot of detail and time and observation. Are there any other animal behaviorists in your department?

Williams: Yes there are. There’s Kim Sawrey who taught the Costa Rica course last year and in the future either he and I will trade off on that or he will take it over probably. There’s also Kate Bruce who’s field is animal behavior. She’s now directing the honor’s program.

Lack: That’s right near my office.

Williams: And there are a number of other people in the department who do research with animal subjects, but there are three of us whose primary interests is animal behavior as such.

Lack: I remember when I took an intro to psychology course, the instructor said it’s important to do this. Everybody thinks that their dog or cat can learn, you just believe it, but it’s important to prove it and illustrate it through other animals that there is something going on. What would you say, right now there is a Master’s program and an undergraduate program, is the number of majors, has that grown?

Williams: The program is quite popular still. It always has been. I doubt if we’re as high a percentage of the total enrollment of the university as we were 10 or 15 years ago. Part of that is good. There was a time when the student credit hour production per faculty was approximately three times what we were told was appropriate. You can have too many students.

Lack: Yeah, pros and cons. What are the strengths of the current Master’s program? Does it prepare people for clinical psychology or experimental, whole range?

Williams: There are actually two tracks within the program. One of them is an applied program to deal primarily with substance abuse counseling. The other is a generalized program whose goal is to take students and prepare them to enter high quality doctoral programs.

Lack: Has that gone on? Have you heard a lot from some students?

Williams: Yes, it’s been a very successful program and one of the things the department is doing right now is exploring whether to plan a doctoral program or make a formal proposal for one. I think the consensus is that we would like to have one.

Lack: That would be down the road. I suppose, but it would be good to have some others instead of just one. It depends if we’re going to become that broad of a research university, then we have to have more than one Ph.D. program. I would think. I think I got down most of the questions. Do you have any other stories about your department or the life of a faculty member over the years?

Williams: I’ve got lots and lots of stories most of which I won’t tell for the archives. You can’t spend 30 years at an institution without having a lot of interesting things happen. Much of it’s been highly gratifying, much of it’s been frustrating. Some of it has been embarrassing. Life has been full within the department.

Lack: Oh that’s good. How have the students changed in general?

Williams: Yes and there’s also a paradox here that I’ve noticed and a number of other people have also. You know on paper our students are getting much, much better. I’m sure you’ve heard about the improvement in admission standards and things of this nature. But I don’t believe there’s been as much improvement in the classroom as you would expect from the changing paper credentials of our students.

Lack: That’s interesting.

Williams: At one point, I think I gained some insight into this. In the early days, students who came to UNCW were often students who couldn’t get into Carolina or Duke or a more prestigious school and so this was their fallback position and they’ve been kind of a second tier of students in high school and knew that they had to work hard in order to succeed.

As the students improved here, there seemed to be a higher percentage that weren’t either highly motivated to work hard or had never had an experience in which they had had to work hard. So in the early days I think the students, the typical student may not have been as talented, but was more apt to be an overachiever than a student today is.

Lack: Interesting, right. Perhaps some of the students of today haven’t been challenged in their high school years.

Williams: I’m afraid that’s the case. I think a number of them succeeded in high school without having to put out an extreme effort and never learned how satisfying it can be to accomplish something that’s very difficult.

Lack: I suppose in the early days, did you have a lot of nontraditional students?

Williams: There were a number of nontraditional students during my first year at UNCW. I had students who were about my age, some that were older than me, not that I was an ancient person at that point. Many of them were very serious about what they were doing. One of the funny stories I can tell.

Lack: Sure, please.

Williams: My first semester at UNCW because of circumstances, none of my classes were in King Hall which was where the psychology department was located and I was teaching an animal behavior course in Bear Hall in a classroom on the first floor. One day I noticed somebody outside the window and it was one of our nontraditional students who had come late to class and didn't want to interrupt things so she was standing outside listening and taking notes.

Lack: Oh no, oh my goodness. Did you invite her in?

Williams: Yeah, and quite frankly when I came here, I was teaching the advanced course basically the same way I had been teaching a 500 level course at the University of South Carolina. Some of the students weren’t used to that. At the time I came here, the quality and expectations varied tremendously from one class to another.

The way a number of these students dealt with the new challenge they were facing is they would meet after class. About half the class would get together, exchange notes, talk about things and they were working as hard or harder as just about any group I’ve ever seen, but they learned the material. This is the type of thing that I don’t see many students doing today. Maybe I’m just not aware of it, but I think it’s certainly less common than it would have been then.

Lack: That’s interesting. I’ve heard that same remark from various professors and I don’t think it’s just looking back on the good old days. I think there’s probably a lot to it. You probably hit on some of the theories right there. You mentioned about the different buildings. That’s one thing I always ask and I forgot to ask. When you first came on board, the department was housed in King Hall?

Williams: King Hall had been the education/psychology department and psychology got several classrooms and some corner offices on the second floor. Bear Hall had just been built at that time. It was then the business building. The library was essentially half the size it is now.

Lack: When did the department move?

Williams: We moved into the Social and Behavioral Sciences building in 1982. This was a tremendous improvement. We literally had had two faculty members whose offices were in storage closets in King Hall.

Lack: My goodness.

Williams: And almost no lab space so with the move into the new building in ’82, there was a tremendous improvement in resources even though there were also some disappointments. My understanding is that they took $600,000 that was supposed to go to that building and used it to renovate the third floor of what’s now Friday Hall so this meant we got some pretty shoddy desks and things of that nature. But it did allow us to broaden our research activities.

Lack: More labs, more space. I guess graduate students work in the labs as well as undergraduates?

Williams: That’s correct.

Lack: Graduate teaching assistants now so there’s a lot of change. Any other stories you feel like revealing about your students or people you’ve known. Think about it. If you think of anything, let me know. I’d like to thank you for coming here and speaking about your experiences. It’s really been good to hear about the life of the psychology department during this time when there was such consistent leadership too.

Now do chairs change more frequently? Is it more common once a department gets established, to maybe change the chair a little bit more often?

Williams: Well I think it depends on the dynamics within the departments. There were some departments back then that had rapid turnovers or frequent turnovers in chairmanship and others that went on 20 years under the same leadership. Within psychology, the department is now 30 years old and we’ve only had two chairmen. Andy Jackson, the first person who was hired after I came here is the current chair.

Lack: That says something. Well thank you very much for joining me today.

Williams: It’s been enjoyable.

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