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Friday, September 29, 2023

Faculty & Staff

Professor wins big, gains UH support


Nobel Peace Prize recipient Jody Williams is one of only three American women to have been given this prestigious award. She, along with five of her female peers, founded the Nobel Women’s Initiative to promote advocacy. Her latest campaign has been to fight drones, or “killer robots.” | Courtesy of

Nobel Peace Prize recipient and Graduate College of Social Work professor discussed her new memoir Wednesday evening at the Brazos Bookstore, where she gave listeners a candid look into her life and the path she took from humble beginnings to worldwide prominence.

Jody Williams has worked to promote advocacy both at home in the University community and abroad in her travels, compiling her intimate thoughts into “My Name is Jody Williams: A Vermont Girl’s Winding Path to the Nobel Peace Prize” to encourage ordinary citizens to get engaged.

“I want people to know you can be a normal human being and you can still participate in change if you do it with other people,” Williams said.

The Nobel Peace laureate is now working to ban drones, or “killer robots,” as she calls them. Seven months after only nine nongovernmental organizations and Williams launched the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, governments have already agreed to begin discussing the issue at United Nations meetings.

“It blows my mind what a small group of people can do if they have a common strategy of action and do it,” Williams said. “Complaining about an issue is not a strategy for change.”

Williams received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for her work with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. She is one of only 15 women who have been awarded the Peace Prize and was a founding member of the the Nobel Women’s Initiative.

“The Nobel Women’s Initiative finally made me happy to personally have the Peace Prize, because I feel like we’re sharing it,” Williams said. “It helps to shine a light on the work of women’s organizations around the world.”

Graduate College of Social Work academic adviser and lecturer Jamie Parker co-teaches Global Issues in Social Work with Williams and said that even as an instructor, she’s learned how to channel feelings about injustices into something productive.

“She is a force to be reckoned with,” Parker said. “She uses her anger about injustice as a fuel to make change. I think the example she sets is priceless.”

Esmeralda Sotelo and Jenna Cooper, students in Williams’ and Parker’s class, came to the event. As a class assignment, they were required to form a group, pick an issue and either research it or complete an advocacy project. All the students chose advocacy. Cooper and Sotelo raised awareness on human trafficking in Houston by organizing an event on Nov. 6 that included speakers like Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia.

“One of the main reasons I came to UH was because of the professors — (Williams) in particular,” Cooper said. “With one assignment, she managed to light this fire.”

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