I Spy Someone making a difference.
I Spy Carolyn Hickman-Williams: Service with a smile
A small mirror sits between two computer monitors on the uncluttered desk of Carolyn-Hickman Williams, employment coordinator for Coastal Carolina University’s Office of Human Resources and Equal Opportunity (HREO). The mirror isn’t used to apply or touch up makeup, however.
“I believe you can hear the smile on someone’s face,” says Hickman-Williams. “Your attitude comes through the phone. So every time my phone rings, I check the mirror and put a smile on my face.”
For 28 years, Hickman-Williams has been applying her soothing voice and can-do attitude as an employee for CCU. After earning a bachelor’s degree in history from Voorhees College in Denmark, S.C., the Conway native returned home and began working with the Horry County school system. She later gained eight years of experience in the field of broadcasting at WJXY Radio. Her love for education drew her to seek employment at CCU, where she began working as a registration coordinator in the Office of the Registrar. While working full-time, Hickman-Williams managed to receive a master's degree in education from the University of South Carolina
From the registrar’s office, she moved to Career Services, overseeing student employment as a career counselor. That position was melded into HREO, where for the past four years Hickman-Williams has been the employment coordinator. In this position, she coordinates the faculty retirement process; serves as the coordinator of the pre-employment background check for all potential employees; serves as an administrator for the online hiring system; and still coordinates the hiring of student employees, along with other duties and responsibilites.
“It is a lot of work,” she says. “But it’s also fun. I like my job because this isn’t a boring position -- every day it’s something new.”
The trend of something new will continue over the summer break. According to Hickman-Williams, there are currently more than 75 various positions open at CCU, with three to four individuals being screened and considered for each vacancy. Open slots include everything from directors and professors to janitors and the 50 students currently being vetted for employment with University Housing. “The semester may have wound down, but this office doesn’t,” she says.
It’s not just Coastal Carolina that benefits from the hard work Hickman-Williams puts in each day, however. She is also very active within the communities of Conway and Myrtle Beach.
With a father who was a deacon and a mother who was president of the missionary society for their church, Hickman-Williams was brought up to “do whatever needs to be done.” This is apparent in her commitment to Mt. Pisgah Missionary Baptist Church in Conway, where she holds the title of financial clerk. Hickman-Williams lists other duties as well: handling public relations, printing the church’s press materials, training ushers, serving on the kitchen ministry as a secretary, hosting “Carolyn’s Good Manners Club” during the summer enrichment program and “everything else that nobody wants to do.”
She serves as a mentor to several high school and college students. One of her mentees is 17-year-old Brianna Bellamy, a local youth Hickman-Williams describes as a “sweet, but shy child” who overcame many challenges in her life. With Hickman-Williams in her corner, Bellamy developed confidence in her capacity for learning. She recently graduated from Horry Georgetown Technical College and the Horry County Early College program, and will attend Columbia College in the fall as an education major.
“It was so great to see Brianna's dreams come true and to see her blossom into a confident young lady,” she says. “I feel like there is something in everybody that just needs to be pulled out.”
Hickman-Williams has also been raising her 15-year-old granddaughter Nadia, a rising junior at Conway High School. “That’s who gets most of my free time, between picking her up from school, helping with her homework, shuttling her to various events, taking her to choir practice or going shopping.” she says. “In two years, she’ll graduate high school. Maybe then I’ll be ready to retire.”
Hickman-Williams is still an active sister in the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority as well. She is a charter member and served as the first president for the local chapter in Horry County - Mu Iota Omega. The Silver Star member (she's been active for 37 years) spent 13 years as the graduate adviser for CCU’s Alpha Kappa Alpha Rho Pi chapter of the sorority. More than an adviser, Hickman-Williams is “a mother away from home,” whether the ladies need tough love, or the opposite.
“I’m always teaching and giving a lesson,” she says, “instilling habits that may or may not immediately pay off, but the results will happen. One of my former mentees, who’s recently graduated from law school, sent an email saying she appreciated me being hard on them. She said if I had not been there, she would not have been succesful at CCU. Having someone hold you accountable makes a difference."
She combines her dedication to the AKAs with her love of travel to come up with some fun and memorable vacations.
“I loved visiting San Francisco with my sisters,” she says. “The Golden Gate Bridge is just beautiful and so much larger in person. I really wanted to visit Alcatraz too, but one of my sisters got scared, so we backed out.”
Next up is a leadership conference with her AKA sistren to Montreal in July.
“The conference will be filled with workshops, forums, motivational speakers and luncheons,” she says. “Some of my sisters and I will take some leisure time though to do a little shopping, a little pampering and a little sightseeing.”
No matter where, with whom or how she shares her time, however, it all comes full circle, back to the commitment she’s made to CCU since first joining its staff in August of 1985.
“I like my job at the university,” she says. “I like seeing this growth and I understand that there’s a need for change, but we must keep the family atmosphere in mind as we move forward. There were just five buildings when I first started working at Coastal and everybody knew each other’s name. I hope we can maintain that family atmosphere as we grow.”