Volunteer Appreciation Week - Meet Debra Williams

This is the fourth in our series of National Volunteer Week blogs- each profile written by SHRM’s Field Services Directors. Today’s piece profiles Debra Williams and is authored by Shelly Trent.  Follow @SHRM all this week for recognition of our amazing volunteers with the #NVW16 and #SHRMLead hashtags.  

Although I only recently got to know Debra Williams, she has made a lasting impression on me!  Debra Williams, the 2016 chapter president of Detroit SHRM in Michigan, is seen by her HR peers as a strategic, results-driven leader and advisor.  She has diverse, high-level experience, and is currently serving as the Executive Vice President for Right Management’s Great Lakes Region.  Her prior work includes roles as Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer for Parkview Health and Deputy CEO and Chief Human Resources Officer for Detroit Public Schools. 

She was recognized with the Athena Leadership Award by the Greater Fort Wayne (IN) Chamber of Commerce, an award recognizing those who demonstrate professional excellence, community service, and passion for assisting others in realizing their full leadership potential.  According to the Athena Leadership website, “The ATHENA Leadership Model®, developed through a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, identifies eight distinct attributes that are reflective of women’s contributions to leadership:  Authentic Self, Relationships, Giving Back, Collaboration, Courageous Acts, Learning, Fierce Advocacy, Celebration and Joy. These personal traits that are more intuitive to women, and combined with the strongest aspects of traditional leadership - taking risks, assertiveness, hard work - prepare women to be successful leaders in the 21st century.”

In addition to her MBA, she holds a certificate in Diversity Management from Cornell University and is a Certified Professional Coach.  Before becoming the president of the Detroit SHRM chapter, Debra was Chapter President of the Greater Detroit Chapter of the National Association of African Americans in Human Resources (NAAAHR).

Debra can often be seen with key SHRM volunteers in Michigan plotting the future landscape of the organizations she serves. 

One of her volunteer peers on the Michigan State Council, Michael Pachuta, says this about Debra:

“With the institutionalization of “HR Business Partners” into the HR profession, Detroit SHRM is fortunate to have Debra Williams as their President.  A former CHRO of a large healthcare system, the founder of her own business, and the Executive Vice President of a global HR consulting firm, Debra exemplifies the compassion of an HR professional, the business savvy of a CEO and the experience and knowledge to know which hat to wear.

In the same manner Detroit, Michigan, has become a thriving city, Detroit SHRM is thriving with Debra Williams as the President.  Her professionalism, business acumen, and firsthand knowledge of the human resource profession have been invaluable.

As the president of the largest SHRM-affiliated chapter in Michigan, Debra’s expertise in leading the HR function in organizations gives her insight into leading her chapter to the next level to align with SHRM’ objectives.  Her colleagues see her as a coach and advisor, and when I got to know her, I could see why.  Debra comes across as very caring, and in her conversations, she encourages you to become the best professional you can be. 



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