As part of Fordham Law’s Black History Month programming, Fordham Law Professor Clare Huntington spoke with Anne Williams-Isom FCLC ’86, James R. Dumpson Chair in Child Welfare Studies at Fordham’s Graduate School of Social Service, during a lively fireside chat on Feb. 23. In addition to serving as a faculty member at Fordham, Williams-Isom is a member of the President’s Council at Fordham University and former chief executive officer of the anti-poverty organization Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ). She provided a unique perspective on the intersection of law and public policy when it comes to social justice issues.
In her conversation with Huntington, Williams-Isom detailed how her upbringing and education influenced her professional paths, describing the many ways she has worked to address the root causes of inequality and poverty, with a focus on underserved children and families. She graduated from Columbia Law School in 1991 and has experience working in the public, private, and non-profit sectors.
Williams-Isom said her prior legal training prepared her for the work she wanted to do as HCZ CEO for six years—including dealing with financial matters and fundraising. During that time, she was able to obtain operational experience while learning more about what happens within a community, as well as learning how to apply what was happening on the frontlines and translating that into policy.
“[It was] being able to take a problem, implementing [a solution], and then coming back and saying, ‘Is it working, is it not working?’ Williams-Isom explained, noting that she ran an innovative “cradle to career” pipeline program that aimed to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty.
“I think maybe those are management skills, but … I don’t have an MBA from Harvard. I just have a law degree.”
In her current role as Dumpson Chair, Williams-Isom works with faculty and students to develop research, programs, and policy analyses that improve services to underserved children and families. She will continue to use an equity and social justice lens to focus on challenges for families of color, and intends to develop a collaboration between the Graduate School of Social Service, Fordham Law School, and the Gabelli School of Business in creating a leadership institute for students, practitioners, and agency leaders committed to change around issues of race and justice.
Watch the full event here.