Allegra Williams, Community Social Psychology
“The diversity of students at UMass Lowell prepared me for working with diverse communities in the real world.”
Allegra Williams enjoys working with people of different backgrounds to build communities — and thanks to her community social psychology
master’s degree from UMass Lowell, she has been able to create and strengthen several communities throughout Lowell in just a few years.
Williams came to Lowell after completing her undergraduate degree in psychology and African studies at Mt. Holyoke College. She wanted to study at the intersection of community development and empowerment and felt that UMass Lowell’s community-based placement would fit her goals well. The faculty’s warm welcome and bottom-up rather than top-down approach to education also impacted Williams’ decision. A few years after completing the program, she knew she’d made the right choice.
“My experience fit my expectations of the program,” says Williams, whose degree work included helping to create a documentary film, public art projects, collaborating with African immigrants and several city organizations as well as an awareness program for the city’s homeless people. “UMass Lowell is really good at bridging the disciplines in a program and helping students and faculty work collaboratively,” she says.
The homelessness awareness project, part of an annual tent city event, made Williams consider how public policy decisions are made and their effect on a community’s members. She says it also shaped her perception of the city and sparked her interest in urban planning. These interests and connections made while working with the University’s community affairs office and the Coalition for a Better Acre led Williams to her current role as neighborhood planner for the City of Lowell.
As the planner, Williams develops short- and long-range strategies to enhance the quality of life in Lowell’s neighborhoods and helps to ensure the integration of those strategies with other development initiatives in the city. She acts as a city liaison to neighborhood groups, hearing their concerns and incorporating their ideas into city plans. Williams has overseen focus groups, festivals, grants and public art projects to foster collaboration in and between the neighborhoods of Lowell.
“My work connects well with my personal life, in which I work with friends to keep building communities in Lowell,” says Williams, adding that more and more UMass Lowell alumni are staying in the city after graduation. “It’s exciting to walk down the street and see people I know from school and working with them to make a more engaging community for everyone. UMass Lowell’s increased visibility downtown has really spurred economic growth and vibrancy for our residents and visitors.”