Five Questions with Aiya Williams
Aiya Williams is terrible at sitting still.
Name: Aiya Williams
Position: Instructional technology manager, Instructional and Information Systems
Time at the Gillings School: Nine months, but I’ve been at UNC for about two years. I worked in the Center for Faculty Excellence / ITS Teaching and Learning before coming to Gillings.
What I do at UNC Gillings (and why I love it): Part of my job is making sure that our learning technologies infrastructure is good to go. That includes managing our lecture capture system, which can record or stream video straight from eight of our classrooms. I also connect faculty to resources for helping them use Sakai, Voicethread and other learning technologies. My favorite part, though, is consulting with faculty and administrators to improve student engagement using the technology we have available. That means I spend time talking with people, staying up to date with what tech is out there and being involved in projects like the MPH Core and Online MPH. The model for higher ed is steadily shifting to incorporate an online space and active learning approaches that accommodate students with a variety of life circumstances and experiences. Even great professors may need to rework their classes for this new setting, and I’m here to help them build strategies for maximum student success.
I like my job because I like solving problems. I’m also lucky to work with a team that is more committed to customer service than any group I’ve ever been part of. They really care about making things possible for our faculty and students. I also like that I’m helping people teach the next generation of change agents how to make the world a better place. I love that the work of public health isn’t about making more money – it directly helps other humans.
I used to be an entrepreneur: and I hated it. I started my own company and, for six years, I helped universities and companies develop online courses, training programs, mobile apps and so on. I focused on designing the information and then managed subcontractors who actually built the deliverables.
You know how they say you can make your own hours when you work for yourself? Well, that’s true – I worked from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. six days a week. I also traveled a lot. I decided I was done with it when I finally realized how tired I was and how much I missed having a life. Having worked at universities before, I knew exactly where I wanted to end up. There’s nowhere else like a university to work.
To start a conversation with me, ask me about: Yoga. Or dance. Movement is really important to me. I’ve been doing yoga for more than 20 years, and I’ve logged 800+ hours of teacher training. Now I’m practicing Forrest Yoga – no, that’s not yoga in the woods. It’s a style of yoga for modern bodies that spend hours a day sitting or hunched over devices. Three or four nights a week, I also dance. I play with a bunch of styles, from blues fusion to contact improv.
On my perfect day: I would wake up in a beachfront house and have a simple day with all life’s “to-dos” taken care of.
When I was little, I wanted to grow up and be: an artist. I loved color and texture – I still do – and wanted to create things with my hands that expressed a feeling or idea. I guess that tactile inclination and creative drive is why, as an adult, I’m dancing my heart out. I’m just terrible at sitting still.