Meet Kenya Williams, MSN, RN, HSM, Director of Governance and Policy, National Student Nurses’ Association (NSNA)
Why did you choose the field of association management, and what about it keeps you going?
My journey is uniquely different from many of my colleagues as I am now employed at the very organization I once chaired as national President. I am humbled enough to vocalize that I am not here today because I am the perfect success model; I am not here because I got everything right or because my life is a straight curve. I initially, I went to nursing school wanting to graduate with a stable JOB. Instead, I found my passion, my career in association management. The funny thing is I found it in nursing school! I saw me, or someone who looked liked me in a video and said, “I can do that” – “I need to do that!!!”-- The rest is history. This beacon of light for me was Dr. Beverly Malone, CEO of the National League for Nursing, and seeing her allowed me the ability to see how I could help countless individuals by embracing my calling into servant leadership. So, I joined NSNA and discovered the enormous gratification of becoming a nursing leader. I found that both association management and nursing are not just careers, but rather, a privilege to help other people, exercise compassion, and to care. What keeps me going now is the unique ability to serve a membership that is ok advocating for change, which sometimes means going against the status quo, by going against the odds and positively influence the lives of the people.
Which aspect of your career do you consider to be your biggest struggle?
I would say my biggest challenge has been my continual drive in excelling not only in academics but also professionally. It is rewarding to complete my doctoral degree while studying for my CAE simultaneously. However, embracing these dual challenges have allowed me to achieve a point of view and a perspective that not only fosters my understanding of local and global healthcare issues but also aids in my continual knowledge in association management while strengthening my organization along the way. I strongly believe that whatever we learn from our friends and industry colleagues should assist us in becoming successful association management servant leaders - sensitive to the members' needs and aware of our duties and responsibilities to society at large. Association management is a daily part of our lives; hence, we should be exhilarated by the privilege we have of helping others and positively contributing to societal wellbeing.
What advice do you have for aspiring professionals looking to pursue a career in association management?
There is no ONE formula to succeed as an association management leader; sometimes, you have to do it your way. The contemporary society is full of socio, economic, and political dynamics. What may work for another leader or individual may not work for you. It is your life and your story; find your passion in your association management career and hold on to it. Have a positive attitude and uphold positive action, and make it happen. Essentially. Our profession cannot be developed in the quiet and ease; it is only through real-life association management experiences and education that our ambitions can be inspired and souls strengthened. Therefore, take up your career and make it your life. Think about it, dream about it, and live it. Let your body, your nerves, your muscles, and your brain be full of that idea.
Secondly, in my life, I have failed over and over again, but every time, I rub off the dust and find my way up again; obstacles are necessary. Having come from a socioeconomically challenged background, the odds of success were never on my side. However, education, persistence, and mentorship modeled to me to who I am today. Despite my position, I still have mentors; individuals who act as my frame of reference and who I consult when I am faced with an exceptional challenge. Find that mentor, who motivates you and make him or her your learning model to improve your career. Education gives us knowledge, experience enriches and advances that knowledge but mentorship enables you to apply the knowledge accurately and understand how to best interact with our environment.
If you could pick a personal anthem, what would it be?
"When you have more than you need, build a longer table...not a higher fence." There is a seat for everyone at the table!
Kenya Williams, MSN, RN, HSM, Director of Governance and Policy, National Student Nurses’ Association (NSNA)