Visiting Professor Spotlight: Princess Williams

Get to know Professor Princess Williams, Visiting Professor of Political Science.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Jackson, Mississippi. 


Where did you complete your undergrad?

Jackson State University


Where did you complete your PhD?

University of Michigan 


When did you come to WashU?



What is your area of concentration (IR, Comparative, Methods, American, etc.)?

American Politics 


Why did you pursue political science?

I like to think that I was predestined to pursue political science because of my dad. Every day, he would watch CSPAN and national news and always talk about local and national political issues. So, by osmosis, I became interested. However, I seriously became interested in government and politics during my sophomore year of high school in 2008. A couple of things were happening - 1) Obama was running for president. 2) My mentor, Chokwe Lumumba, was running to be a member of the City Council in Jackson, MS. 3) I had an amazing U.S. history teacher who used a cultural competence approach to teaching history. Because of these events, I followed low and national news daily. Although I could not vote because I wasn't 18, I even registered my siblings, friends, and other family members to vote - and made sure they voted in the local and national elections. Moreover, because of my fascination with history, politics, and government - I had a near-perfect score on the U.S History State High School Exam - and it was among the highest scores in the school district. During my junior year of high school, I decided to attend Jackson State University and major in political science. During college, I served as president of the political science club and also did an amazing summer research program (SROH) at Harvard. I then decided to pursue a Ph.D. in political science at the University of Michigan to understand why Southerners were culturally and politically distinct.


What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on my book, "The Politics of Place: How Southern Identity Contours American Politics". Here, I develop a novel measurement of Southern identity and I show that Black and White Southerners think about political issues in very similar ways. 


If you were not a political science professor, what would you be doing?

I would pursue a career in education administration - I would love to be a principal of an underserved public high school. I attended an underserved public high school, and I remember understanding that my classmates and I did not lack talent, intelligence, or ambition. We lacked resources - which made our plight a bit more challenging. Nevertheless, I had an amazing principal who would say these words on the intercom every day during morning announcements, "Hard work and consistent effort are the keys to success. You can go anywhere in the world from John W. Provine High School." This made my friends and I believe that, regardless of our circumstances or the barriers we may face, we achieve what we want. Thus, if I did not pursue the professoriate route, I would not mind being a principal who instills discipline, hope and inspiration in children from disadvantaged backgrounds.


Favorite place to eat in St. Louis (or on campus)?

Grace - Meat + Three


What is something people might be surprised to know about you?

I enjoy acrylic painting. I picked up this hobby in graduate school.


Who is someone who influenced you?

My mom. She was born in the Mississippi Delta during the 1960s with little opportunity or resources. She is the youngest of 16 children. She also birthed eight children - she had four boys first, then triplet girls, and lastly me. She did not finish high school because she was pregnant with my oldest brother. However, all of her children finished high school and five of her children graduated college. She is very wise, strong, resilient, faith-driven, and hardworking. She inspires and influences me to be a better person daily.