From West Baltimore To MIT: ‘I Think I Am Just Transitioning Out Of Survival Mode’

By Liz Bowie
The Baltimore Sun

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The president of Virginia Union University said he wants to hire more black women scientists like soon to be graduate Corshai Williams, so he took the unusual step of asking her to come back as an assistant professor of chemistry whenever she finishes her doctorate.

RANDALLSTOWN, Md.

Just days before she was to receive her bachelor’s degree from Virginia Union University, a young woman raised in West Baltimore’s roughest neighborhoods was asked to a meeting of the school’s Board of Trustees. In a surprise announcement, the university’s president offered her a job.

Corshai Williams, 22, doesn’t yet have a doctorate. But the university’s president, Hakim J. Lucas, said he wants to hire more black women scientists like Williams, so he took the unusual step last month of asking her to come back as an assistant professor of chemistry whenever she finishes her doctorate.

She recalled the moment recently in the living room of her adopted home in Randallstown, Md., with an a radiant grin and awkward giggle that expressed just how little she’d expected while growing up to have the promising life that is unfolding before her.

“It was very humbling,” she said.

Williams will take her next step in the fall, when she begins graduate studies in chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Like so many other children who grow up in areas of intense poverty and crime, Williams spent most of her life in a struggle to survive.

She left her mother’s house at age 12 because she often was forced to miss school to care for younger siblings, moving in with a favorite aunt in an apartment near McCulloh Street and North Avenue. She found part-time work to help pay the rent.

With the help of her teachers and guidance counselor at Booker T. Washington Middle School, she applied to and got into Western High School, one of the city’s top schools and a place she had seen as an all-girls sanctuary.

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