Jenn Williamson earned her PhD from the Department of English and Comparative Literature at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2012. She is now the Senior Director for Gender and Social Inclusion at ACDI/VOCA, an economic development organization that promotes sustainable, socially responsible economic growth in developing countries. While working on her PhD, Jenn researched representations and issues of women, gender, race, slavery, class, and poverty, with a particular focus on American literature and culture in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Today, she uses the knowledge she gained from this training, along with broad-based research skills, to lead the development of her current organization’s policies and strategies as well as its initiatives to promote gender equality, female empowerment, and the inclusion of marginalized people around the world. In addition to her research experience, her experience as a Teaching Fellow at UNC provided her with practical skills to develop and facilitate trainings with staff in headquarters and in country offices as well as a variety of clients ranging from government officials to community leaders.
She remains engaged with her research; since graduating, she has published three books. Her monograph, Twentieth-Century Sentimentalism: Narrative Appropriation in American Literature, was published in 2013 by Rutgers University Press. In 2016, Syracuse University Press published her re-issue of a slave narrative, The Rev. J.W. Loguen, as a Slave and as a Freeman. A Narrative of Real Life. Including Previously Uncollected Letters by J.W. Loguen and a Critical Introduction. Along with UNC alumnae Jennifer Larson and Ashley Reed, Jenn co-edited a collection of essays titled The Sentimental Mode: Essays in Literature, Film and Television, which McFarland Press published in 2014. She also co-authored The Minimum Standards for Mainstreaming Gender Equality, a ground-breaking guide within the development industry. For those interested in a path similar to Jenn’s, she stresses that taking an internship made her experience and qualifications legible to an audience outside of academia, which helped her transition into the development industry. She has also written an article for those interested in entering in international development or gender advocacy, which you can read here.