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Black History Month
2023 Honoree

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Nakeya Williams

Nakeya Williams

Assistant Professor

Assistant Department Head

United States Merchant Marine Academy

Where are you from?

I was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, home to the headquarters of the NAACP, the Baltimore Ravens, Old Bay seasoning, and the best crab cakes. My mom’s side of the family migrated from North Carolina, so I guess I am a southerner at heart.


Please describe an experience (or 2) that helped you discover/ cultivate your interest in the mathematical sciences.

I would say my whole experience with the Mathematics Department at Morgan State University. I actually started out as a Psychology major when I transferred to Morgan in the second semester of my freshman year. However, after taking a few math courses I changed my major to Mathematics. The change had a lot to do with the supportive and warm atmosphere of the department. The professors took an interest in me and helped me see my potential. They recommended me to the HBCU-UP program which introduced me to the world of mathematical research. I was able to travel to the Joint Math Meetings and participate in REUs all because of the encouragement and efforts of the staff and faculty at Morgan State. Without their support, guidance, and the opportunities they presented, I would not have any of my academic accomplishments today.


What is/are your most proud accomplishment(s) in regards to your career in the mathematical sciences?

I’m really proud that in my position I can be a role model and a source of support for students of color, especially female students in the STEM fields. I’ve been fortunate to work at two of the United States service academies, the United States Military Academy and the United States Merchant Marine Academy. These academies are quite prestigious and offer many opportunities upon graduation. However, the population of female students and students of color is small and the environment may not be the easiest to navigate for some with diverse backgrounds. I feel like I provide students that share a similar background as me with encouragement and inspiration. I’m proud and honored to be able to impact the lives of my students in a positive way as a mentor and friend, facilitating their road to success.


What is/are your most proud accomplishment(s) in regards to your personal life?

I am the oldest of 8 kids who grew up in what would be called the inner city. I am the second in my immediate family to earn a college degree and the first to earn a doctorate degree. I am very proud to have been a good example to my siblings. One of the best moments was seeing how proud my mom was at my doctoral graduation and being able to dedicate my dissertation to her, letting her know that all her sacrifice and hard work was appreciated.

I am Christian and a proud member of the World Mission Society Church of God. My life of faith is very important to me. It’s not always easy to have a good balance of career, family, and faith. Through studying about various mathematical concepts I’ve actually been able to grow in faith and become closer to my Creator. It’s amazing to see the beauty of math in almost everything.


Please share some words of wisdom/inspiration.

I would not be where I am today without having a network of amazing people supporting me. My professors at Morgan State University and North Carolina State University, the HBCU-UP Program, the EDGE program, and several other individuals were vital to my success. It’s important to surround yourself with a supportive group of mentors and friends and never be afraid to ask for help.

There is a quote from Colin Powell that I like, “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” I wasn’t a straight-A student in college. I’m not a genius, there were always people who were smarter than me. Every topic in every math class did not come easily to me. I failed one of my first qualifying exams in graduate school. However, with perseverance, persistence, and hard work, the support of many in the mathematically gifted and Black community, and the grace of God I am able to be where I am today.