Distinguished Alumna of Tomorrow is an award of hope and promise. According to those who have known and worked with her at Marygrove, both are present in Briana Williams in abundance.
In describing Briana’s gifts, Professor Donald Levin says, “Her insights about literature are astute, and she articulates those insights in writing with grace and power.” Briana is a multiple winner of the Amy S. McCombs/Frederick P. Currier Writing Award. It is associated with the Contemporary American Authors Lecture Series. One of her essays examined the poetry of Elizabeth Alexander. The poems present an expansive view of what it means to be black in America countering those who believe there is only one way to be truly black.
In a contest sponsored by Chrysler LLC, Briana won the grand prize of a $5,000 scholarship for her essay, “The D and Me.” The essay describes her experience moving from Nashville, Tennessee to Detroit when she was 10 and how she came to know the city and erased the stereotypes she had when she arrived.
Briana is enthusiastic about her recent internship at Tulane University in New Orleans which included a class on the history and culture of the city. She assisted at a summer camp for kids, a proactive program which aims to change the culture of violence in New Orleans. It included a performance at the House of Blues. “Much of the city looks fine, especially the downtown and tourist areas,” she says. Briana also worked with Project Green Light distributing energy efficient light bulbs to people in areas that had been hard hit by Hurricane Katrina, noting that you could still see the high water lines on the walls and windows of the homes. Some are still waiting for the electricity to be reconnected. Nonetheless, they are very grateful. Briana comments that the people have a great “can do” spirit and are working together to get things rather than relying on government help.
On campus, Briana works about 10 hours a week in the newly renovated Nancy A. McDonough Geschke Writing Center. She finds that much of the time she is helping students build their confidence in their own ideas and skills. Michael Martin, co-director of the Center, comments, “She has a genuine gift for making students feel at ease in tutoring sessions. In addition to her interpersonal gifts, Briana’s knowledge of writing and the process of writing give her valuable expertise in this work. Most of our assistants are graduate students; Briana can stand beside any one of them.”
Briana describes her 2008 internship with Lotus Press, a publishing operation run by Detroit poet laureate Naomi Long Madgett, as inspiring. “I learned so much about the rich history of black writers from Detroit.”
At the 2008 Marygrove College Honors Convocation, Briana was presented with the DeVlieg Foundation English and Modern Languages scholarship for “a student who demonstrates great promise as a scholar of literature and language.”
She is thriving in the small college environment and considers it a blessing to be a Marygrove student. She enjoys living on campus and says that the cafeteria offers lots of healthy choices. Briana has an older sister and a younger brother and speaks of her mother, Veretta Nix, in glowing terms as her inspiration and her best friend. Briana has not decided what’s next, but is looking into various graduate school opportunities and thinks that becoming a college professor might be in her future. She is honored and pleased to be named Distinguished Alumni of Tomorrow and hopes that she makes good on the high expectations embodied in the award.