Jayssa Williams: “Sometimes we think after college our brains shut off and we go into work mode. But I’ve kept my mind and pen sharp. I’m always learning new things.”

This story is part of a series of profiles of African American employees OUC is featuring during Black History Month. Today: Jayssa Williams.

Because of the pandemic, Jayssa Williams has had to make adjustments to her tradition of observing Black History Month (BHM). Usually she would attend social events, listen to speakers or participate in a BHM-themed theater production.

“But now with COVID I am making an effort to support black businesses and promote them on my Instagram and support black creators and black art the best I can safely and from home,” she says.

Williams has grown accustomed to having to adapt to change. She had been in her new job as an OUC Payment Specialist only two months in 2020 when the coronavirus changed life as we knew it. Fresh out of Florida International University with degrees in finance and theater, Williams was looking forward to immersing herself in what she calls “one of my biggest accomplishments, getting a job at OUC.”

“In 2020, that was a big transition, but I learned a lot in a short period of time,” says Williams, who had interned in the Finance and Support Services department while attending college. “It taught me that in life you have to adapt.”

Helping her get acclimated amid the onset of the pandemic were fellow Payment Specialist Sabine Bain and Justin Baker, Manager of Contracts & Finance. “They provided me with knowledge and guidance that allowed me to take on any change that came my way, including changes due to COVID-19,” she says.

“Sabine has given me so much guidance in my professional career. She pushes me to try harder and learn more things. Justin, he’s a big mentor for me in the same way but also by encouraging me to challenge myself professionally and socially by networking and researching career advancing opportunities in the community, which I plan to implement more in 2021.”

The only child of a mixed-race couple in their mid-teens when she was born, Williams says she grew up fast but always had the love of her grandmothers, influential figures in her life.

“They instilled in me that no matter what trials and tribulations you go through in life, always be thankful for what you have and always put God first,” she says.

As a student, she was encouraged by her parents to strive for academic excellence and excelled in Orange County public schools. After completing Maynard Evans High School’s International Baccalaureate program she enrolled in FIU in Miami to obtain a double bachelors. During her time at FIU, she worked as a residential assistant while participating in Collegiate 100, an organization that mentors young black men, the Black Student Union, theater productions at FIU and in the Miami community, and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.

“Sometimes we think after college our brains shut off and we go into work mode. But I’ve kept my mind and pen sharp. I’m always learning new things,” she says.