Bill Robinson admits that he may not be in Baltimore today, as the first executive director of The Associated’s new Center for Leadership, if it were not for a conversation he had with his sociology professor his sophomore year at college.
At the time, he was pursuing a degree in computer science. Yet, he was fascinated by society’s challenges.
“I started college thinking I would be addressing difficult problems that would ultimately yield solutions,” he recalls. “But my professor made me realize that the challenges we face in the social world are not easy to solve. In fact, sometimes we don’t know where to begin, as we can’t quite figure out what the problem is. To tackle that was thrilling – and set me on a path I never expected to be on.”
So, this young Rutgers University student soon switched majors, eventually completing an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in the Social Sciences. His dissertation was based on field research conducted among congregational Reform Rabbis in Israel.
“I wanted to understand how Rabbis crafted their authority as they sought to empower congregants to build vibrant communities through having them take on shared responsibility for the leadership of the community,” he says.
While working on his Ph.D., Bill landed a job as staff researcher for the Council for Initiatives in Jewish Education, which was funding a national initiative in Jewish education. Based in Atlanta, the project would take him to two other pilot cities –Milwaukee and Baltimore.