No stranger to Athens, Robert L. Williams has returned to the University as the new associate director of the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership.

Williams received both his bachelor's and master's degrees at the University before earning a Ph.D. in organizational and human development from the Fielding Institute in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Williams has worked with the Triangle Associates, a national consulting firm serving higher education, healthcare and foundations for more than 15 years. At Triangle Associates, Williams said he has gained extensive experience in design, development and implementation of leadership development programs.

Since returning to the University in 2000, Williams has worked with the Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach and at the Fanning Institute as a Senior Fanning Fellow. Williams' appointment was effective Aug. 12.

Founded in 1982, the Fanning Institute develops leadership skills in Georgians of all ages and walks of life. The core conviction of the Institute is that every individual has leadership potential and that the development of these skills will aid in overcoming extreme present and future challenges.

The Fanning Institute strives to serve audiences who are not usually reached by other leadership organizations, such as public housing tenants and disabled persons. The emphasis on non-profit leadership training is one of the reasons the Fanning Institute appealed to Williams.

Williams said he agrees with the ideals of the Fanning Institute and in particular is interested in the non-profit programs sponsored by the Institute.

"A lot of leadership programs are focused on the for-profit world, and while there's nothing wrong with that, I think it's also important to address the problems of lower-income groups," he said.

After spending the past 15 years working with national programs, Williams said he is eager to bring his experience to Georgia leadership programs. While the primary focus of the Fanning Institute is on adult learners, the Institute also offers opportunities for students with an interest in leadership.

The Institute has developed partnerships with the School of Social Work and other institutions that have expressed interest in developing programs for leadership.

Additionally, the Institute works closely with those who are interested in student leadership and participates in on-campus leadership lectures.

Fanning Institute Director David Mills welcomes Williams' leadership and management experience to the University.

"Dr. Williams brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to his new role at the Fanning Institute," Mills said.

Williams said he hopes his experience working with national leadership corporations will have a positive impact on the Fanning Institute and bring perspective to the institution's leadership programs.

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