Lighting the Way
Posted on Apr 25, 2022
Adam Williams’ desire to work for the federal government began to take form when his aunt visited his school to speak about her role with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Career day for a wide-eyed, curious fifth grader ignited a hidden spark and illuminated the trajectory of a young boy’s life.
At 10 years old, Adam Williams’ desire to work for the federal government began to take form when his aunt visited his school to speak about her role with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It was only natural that the Cartersville, Georgia, native would find an interest in the agricultural field.
“My aunt would take me with her to trainings,” Williams said. “For career day, she talked about her daily duties, and I thought that was so impressive. Seeing that what she does makes a difference inspired me.”
That is what drew the Fort Valley State University alumnus to agriculture and food safety. Even in high school on senior night for the basketball team, Williams proclaimed his goal to work with the FDA. This passion was further fueled by the 30-year-old's family background. His great-great-grandfather was one of the first Black sweet potato farmers in Georgia and owned more than 300 acres of land in his hometown.
“That is likely where my work ethic came from,” Williams said. “I guess I always had some agriculture in me, and Fort Valley pulled it out of me.”
His initial path to college began when he received a partial scholarship to play football at Cumberland University in Kentucky. “At the last minute, I chose to attend FVSU,” he said. “My uncle went to Fort Valley, and my cousin was a student there. The first time I visited the campus was the day of freshman orientation.”
This sudden diversion for Williams was right on time. He initially majored in computer information systems but soon discovered that this was not the career field for him. Embracing his fifth-grade dream, he learned more about the agricultural programs at FVSU, specifically agricultural economics, from a fellow student.
“It sounded interesting,” Williams said. “I met with Dr. (Erika) Styles, and she convinced me to major in agricultural economics. I never looked back.”
He said his experience at the 1890 Land-Grant University was amazing.
“I appreciate Dr. (Mohammed) Ibrahim for always pushing me to be a better version of myself. He cares about his students and their future outside of FVSU. Dr. Styles was always willing to help,” he said, mentioning other professors like the late Dr. Mack Nelson, who was also instrumental during his college years.
Williams participated in Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS), which offered him the opportunity to attend conferences, network and fly in an airplane for the first time at age 21.
Moreover, Williams gained an internship after graduating with his bachelor’s degree in 2013, which was his footstep into the federal government with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). He thanked USDA representatives Floyd Hooker and James Jackson for their mentorship and giving him a chance. He interned with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Fort Valley for a year and a half while taking night classes to earn a Master of Public Health at his alma mater. During that time, he learned time management in between working with farmers and on his degree.
“It taught me how to build relationships, which is very important in the job I have now,” Williams said. His duties included helping farmers conserve their land, install fences and water irrigation lines, and prevent erosion.
His perseverance led to him completing his master’s in 2016 and continuing his career with the USDA NRCS as a soil conservationist in Lexington, Virginia. “I was there for six months, but my dream job was to always work for the FDA,” Williams said.
His dream came true when the opportunity became available in Atlanta. Serving as a consumer safety officer for Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, Williams performed inspections to ensure that states met compliance with federal regulations. After six years, he was promoted in July 2021 to state liaison in the Program Division Director’s Immediate Office in Chatanooga, Tennessee. He now serves the Nashville and Cincinnati, Ohio, District and oversees six states.
His new role comes with more responsibilities, along with the freedom to make his own schedule and travel the country. “I like building relationships with our state counterparts and seeing that what I do makes a difference,” he said.
The spark that first ignited in Williams at a young age continues to burn as he looks forward to advancing his career and working for the FDA headquarters in Washington, D.C. He also desires to provide more opportunities for current and future FVSU students to join the FDA.
The young professional values the foundation of hard work and resilience that his parents and FVSU instilled in him.
“It made me want to work harder in getting my education,” he said. “Going to FVSU was the best thing to happen to me. It changed my life.”
- FVSU Agriculture College