2018 Commencement Speaker – Crystal Ann Williams
Boston University Associate Provost for Diversity & Inclusion Crystal Ann Williams is consistently recognized as a thought leader on diversity in the arts. An author and award-winning poet, Williams joined BU from Bates College where she was a professor of English and associate vice president for strategic initiatives. There she developed programs and strategies to increase diversity and enhance engagement across campus. Previously, she was the inaugural dean for institutional diversity at Reed College, leading multiple faculty-driven initiatives to create infrastructure to support diversity and inclusion.
Williams began her career as an actress in Washington, DC before moving to New York to pursue a career in the arts, in particular, poetry. Williams has published four collections of poems including Detroit as Barn, which was a finalist for the National Poetry Series, Cleveland State Open Book Prize, and the Maine Book Award. Her third collection, Troubled Tongues, was awarded the 2009 Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Prize and was a finalist for the 2009 Oregon Book Award, the Idaho Poetry Prize, and the Crab Orchard Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared in leading journals and magazines including American Poetry Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, PEN: America, The Indiana Review, The Sun, Tin House, Ms. Magazine, Ploughshares, and Callaloo.
Williams was one of ten poets commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) to write poems as part of the Jacob Lawrence Migration Series exhibit. In early 2016, she joined Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, in a conversation about “Cultural Equity,” part of the “Equity Series,” a collaboration between the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and MoMA.
An ardent arts advocate, Williams has served on boards and selection panels including Write Around Portland, The Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center, Oregon Poet Laureate Selection Committee, and The Writer’s Chronicle editorial board. She has been a judge for the Donald Hall Poetry Prize, Regional Arts and Culture Council Literary Arts Fellowship, and the Oregon Arts Commission Individual Fellowship. Her distinguished awards and honors include a fellowship from the MacDowell Arts Colony, appointment as the Distinguished Visiting Professor of University Writing at DePauw University, “Master Poet” residency at Indiana University, Literary Arts fellowship, Oregon Arts Commission individual artist grant, and a Barbara Deming/Money For Women individual artist grant.
Williams holds a BA from New York University and an MFA from Cornell University.
The BU Sargent College Convocation will take place Sunday, May 20 at 9 a.m. The ceremony will be followed by the All University Commencement Ceremony at 1 p.m. For more information about commencement activities at Boston University, visit our commencement page.