Nothing Can Be Changed Until It is Faced: Meet Dr. Angelo Williams


Recently named one of the Top 20 Black Change Makers by The Sacramento Bee, Dr. Angelo Williams is doing just that: creating change in Sacramento in many areas and on many levels.

Dr. Williams is an Adjunct Professor in Sac State’s Master of Arts in Workforce Development Leadership program, offered through the College of Continuing Education (CCE). About the program, Dr. Williams says, “The Workforce Development Leadership program is an amazingly poignant program that unapologetically meets the current workforce crisis in California head on. First and foremost, the program established that there is a crisis and we must educate and train individuals in policy and leadership to face this crisis.”

Quick to point out that change takes collaboration and teamwork, Dr. Williams credits his colleagues for paving the way. “Dr. Cowan and Dr. Chavez recruited me as an instructor when I served as Chief of Staff in the California State Legislature, where workforce issues, from the childcare workforce crisis to the post-COVID realities of getting people back to work, were being hotly debated. In the midst of momentum related to policy changes Dr. Cowan and Dr. Chavez lifted up the necessary next step by enacting a program focused on training workforce leaders in policy, research, leadership and administrative practice,” Dr. Williams says. “Policy change is sustained by well-educated and trained leaders who do the work of implementation to ensure change happens and continues. In addition to the program’s focus on leadership, the policy education and training in the program ensure that we are training both the leaders who do the work and the leaders who make the policy.”

Beyond the impact he is having in the classroom, Dr. Williams serves as the Chief Deputy Director for First 5 California, a state agency focused on creating the optimal conditions to support children 0-5 and their families. About his work with First 5 California, Dr. Williams says, “Our overall framework of actions in funding innovations programming, communications awareness campaigns and ground-breaking research is rooted in equity and an audacious goal and our North Star statement. We know there is a workforce crisis as it relates to childcare and it is one of the top five issues we are focused on. In addition, you can see our current campaign to fight against toxic stress and educate the public on Adverse Childhood Effects on most major media platforms. We are also gearing up for our March 2024 Summit in Oakland: Stronger Starts, 25 years of First 5 California.”

When asked what words of inspiration he would share with future student leaders, Dr. Williams finds motivation in a quote from world renowned African American author, James Baldwin: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

Dr. Williams recognizes that change can be challenging but has hope in those who enter his classroom each day, seeing his students as people who want to solve one of the largest set of challenges facing California. “There are questions that need answering by those who want to face these challenges and make transformational change: How will we get Californians back to work post COVID?  How do we ensure equity in a workforce system with historically racialized outcomes? How can workforce development research, strategy and leadership address the childcare affordability crisis? What local, state and federal policies are standing the way of workforce success writ large? What will be the future of our workforce in the age of Artificial Intelligence? What workforce policies need to change to protect farmworkers in the ear of Climate Change?”

As an educator, Dr. Williams encourages those wanting to make changes to take the first step by applying to the Workforce Development Leadership program. To those students who want to be a part of answering the important questions and issues facing our community, he says, “I encourage those brave souls, would be students, who want to face these challenges to come join us in finding solutions.”

The Workforce Development Leadership (WDL) program aims to develop leaders from diverse backgrounds with the skills and dispositions to successfully organize and manage workforce development programming. The program focuses on cultivating leaders who promote learning, equity, social justice, opportunity and achievement for all students.