December 5, 2022

Sharon Williams: Graduation Evaluation

Assistant Registrar for Degree Audit Sharon Williams.

Assistant Registrar for Degree Audit Sharon Williams.

Starting a new job might not be at the top of most birthday to-do lists. But in September 2016, Sharon Williams was happy to spend her special day at the University of Mary Washington.

As assistant registrar for degree audit, she holds in her hands the future of hundreds of hopeful grads every year.

“Yes, I see them in my sleep,” Williams said of the applications she reviews for students closing in on completing UMW’s bachelor of arts and bachelor of science programs.

She runs reams of reports to identify missing requirements, then works – along with faculty advisors – to help soon-to-be graduates find ways to finish in time to cross the Ball Circle stage.

Things really ramp up when Commencement creeps close, but Williams’ world begins picking up speed as early as March.

“My inbox is full each day after getting through the day before,” said Williams, who has spent the better part of her career in higher education and completed a term on the University Staff Council last month. “Then there are the many phone calls and in-person visits.”

Each student’s circumstance is unique and calls for its own brand of support and encouragement, but the end goal is always the same.

“Everyone wants to know and hear you say it …,” Williams said. “Upon the success of this semester, you are on track to completing your degree(s).”

Q: Have you held any other positions at UMW?
A
: Yes, I worked as the Student Records Specialist when I first arrived in 2016, but I’ve always been in the Registrar’s Office.

Q: What are the most important qualities to have in a job where you’re working with young people eager to graduate from college?
A: Patience and empathy. Remembering that I was once in their shoes and someone was patient with me. 

Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
A: Being able to help students find solutions, even the ones that don’t know they need help. It takes an entire village to get students to the finish line, and I’m so grateful for all the support.

Q: What’s most challenging?
A: Telling a student they won’t graduate. I hear the heartbreak and see the tears, not always from the student but also the parents.

Q: What’s the most meaningful thing in your office?
A: I have a sign that says “Believe.” To me that means that even on your worst day, you need to continue to believe.

Q: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A: I grew up on a farm, but I don’t like to be outside for long periods of time.

Q: Any mottos you live by?
A: Start each day with a grateful heart.