June 18, 2019

Taking the lead

Wayne State’s coordinator for student life wellness expands her role to create a healthy, balanced campus experience

Rainesha Williams-Fox is a no-nonsense problem solver — with heart. As one of 14 children with a background in criminal justice, most of her life has been a crash course in listening, patience and — above all else — uplifting others to help them excel.

“Give me a problem — a work problem, a personal problem, any problem — and I will find you at least five different solutions,” said Williams-Fox. “I’m at my best when I’m helping others become their best.”

She’s been working to help solve problems with Wayne State since September 2016, when she joined the Warrior community as a research consultant working to address basic student needs on campus as part of a grant from the McGregor Fund. That work would ultimately result in The W Food Pantry, which has served more than 1,300 students and distributed more than 20,000 pounds of food since opening in April 2017.

A Detroit native who attended University Prep Academy before earning a bachelor’s in criminal justice from Grand Valley State University, Williams-Fox immediately felt at home on Wayne State’s campus. She is currently pursuing a master’s in public administration in WSU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. 

“I’ve always dreamed of carrying out a career in Detroit and giving back to the place that shaped me,” she said. “One of my first impressions working at Wayne State was that people couldn’t wait — couldn’t be stopped — from helping students. Right from the start, I’ve had such incredible support here.”    

Rainesha Williams-Fox leads a tour of The W Food Pantry for
representatives from Gleaners Community Food Bank. 

Her role at Wayne State has since expanded, and Williams-Fox is now the coordinator for student life wellness, where she is tasked with bridging together on- and off-campus resources to foster a healthy and balanced student experience. The Warrior Life and Wellness program emphasizes eight dimensions of wellness: emotional, financial, physical, spiritual, intellectual, environmental, occupational and social.

“I like to work through the weeds and really find the root cause of a problem,” Williams-Fox said. “The thing is, sometimes there’s no single cause — which is why it’s so important to take a holistic approach.”

Williams-Fox says mentorship is one of the most important things in her daily life, both personally and professionally. In growing The W, Williams-Fox established a student leadership team to manage daily operations.

“Anyone can be a mentor, and everyone can benefit from a mentor,” she said. “Working at The W is one of the most rewarding things, and part of that is getting to learn from the students who utilize the pantry and those who help manage its operations.”

Williams-Fox carries that same passion for mentorship and service within the community.

She has partnered with the student organization Period., to assemble and distribute kits stocked with feminine hygiene products to Detroit Public Schools. Each kit is accompanied by an uplifting note and supplemented with an interactive seminar-style presentation on menstruation and anatomy, which is led by students — many of whom are public health majors.

“I’m always so proud of the students I get to work with,” Williams-Fox said. “They saw a need in the community, and they’re out there addressing it with compassion.” 

Williams-Fox cites being able to work with young people as one of the most rewarding parts of her job. She discovered this passion before coming to Wayne State, during an internship at the Boll Family YMCA where she taught autistic children how to swim. That passion was further reinforced in her roles at the Kent County Juvenile Detention Center and with Wedgwood Christian Services, a youth treatment center for boys aged 12-17.

“At the end of the day, everyone — no matter their age — just wants to feel valued and be treated fairly,” Williams-Fox said. “And I believe that if you work to help someone feel valued and succeed, they grow up empowered to do the same for someone else.”