Ujijji Davis Williams
I have always been passionate about public health and the environment, and what that meant in the context of urban communities. I followed a lot of interests, including medicine, conservation, and climate change and found that design was a great composite of those interests. I decided to pursue landscape architecture because it seemed like a clear way to promote and catalyze improved public health, fight against climate change, and bring beautiful healthy spaces to urban communities that need it the most.
Tell us a little bit about the work you do:
I am a landscape architect and urban planner, which means I evaluate and respond to urban challenges that involve the public spaces where people gather, play, eat or rest, while considering sustainable practices to make common spaces more productive and beneficial to the natural environment. I also think about how systems work together: how people get around, where do people live and eat, what laws and policies that support quality of life. My goal is to respond with both physical and programmatic changes that help to improve everyone’s experience living in the same community!
What types of things interested you when you were a kid?
When I was young, I loved dancing! It was all I ever wanted to do! I also enjoyed painting and making art out of found things, and cooking (eating!)
What were your favorite subjects in school?
History! For me, history helped to explain to me why things are the way they are, and what people have done over time to make positive change!
Did you face any barriers or challenges growing up? What were they?
Growing up in New York City had its colorful moments, especially in the mid-90s. I did not test well for competitive schools so I had many hurdles academically in my attempts to pursue quality education. While I never felt like I lacked, I was aware of how hard my parents worked to provide for me and support my interests. To help them help me, I maintained some sort of employment since the age of 10. I faced the most striking challenges upon graduating high school, in which I became immersed into predominately white spaces, where my peers consistently questions my presence, my value and contributions. Being a young black woman invited a lot of unfair and unkind commentary on my qualifications, my drive and my talent that often made me feel less than or unworthy.
What type of advice do you have for girls who are interested in pursuing a STEM career?
Keep your head up and stay loud. Women are not expected to exceed in technical professions, and today we still celebrate “firsts” after literally thousands of years of scientific advancements. Just know you’re your contribution to the STEM fields I more than what you can do, but who you can inspire that will come after you.
What do you think is one important piece of information you would like to share with our audience?
The future is color. The future is female. The future is us.