Sean D. Williams joined Arizona State University’s College of Integrative Sciences and Arts as the inaugural director of the School of Applied Professional Studies in July of 2023.
Before arriving at ASU, Williams served as the founding director of the technical communication and information design program at the University of Colorado — Colorado Springs, where he was a champion for faculty success, student success and program growth. Williams spent the first 20 years of his professorial career at Clemson University and served in multiple leadership positions there, including as Provost’s Fellow; Chair of the Department of English; Associate Dean of the graduate school; and Co-director and Founder of the doctoral program in Rhetorics, Communication and Information Design.
Williams’ research accomplishments span the spectrum of professional and technical communication.
In his early career, for example, he investigated information design for the web and interactive media, produced an interactive installation of veterans’ stories and secured a $1.5 million NSF grant to study information design in three-dimensional virtual worlds. His work in social media and UX design led to a yearlong research fellowship in Barcelona, Spain to study social media used by international technology startups. As a consultant he has designed services and associated communication products for investors and customers in the technology, financial, health care, manufacturing, and pharmaceutical sectors, participated in the early stages of four startup companies, and served as a policy advisor to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Advisory Council of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE).
Williams has authored or co-authored two books and more than 50 articles, book chapters and trade publications. His recent scholarship — focused on environmental communication — includes his 2023 edited collection Technical Communication for Environmental Action.
Williams earned a Master of Arts in rhetoric and composition from ASU’s Department of English, a doctorate in technical communication from the University of Washington, an MBA from Clemson University and a bachelor’s degree in creative writing from the University of Utah.
PhD - University of Washington
MA - Arizona State University
MBA - Clemson University
BA - University of Utah
The author, co-author, or editor of some 50 journal articles and book chapters, four books or special reports, and recipient of more than $1.5 million in external funding, Sean’s teaching and research occur at the intersection of information design, technical communication, and business.
As Senior Research Fellow at the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute in Barcelona, Spain, for example, he investigated social media use in technology startups, and his most recent work concerns the design of information products that draw communities into dialogue around complex environmental issues, specifically managing water resources. Currently, he is working on an intercultural project to design and ultimately deploy a communication campaign to engage more people in water stewardship, specifically helping to create community acceptance of direct potable reuse of water.
Books, Editorships, and Research Reports
- Williams, S.D., ED. (2023). Technical Communication for Environmental Action. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.
- Williams, S.D. (2011). Entrepreneurship and Social Media: A Grounded Theory Investigation of Three New Ventures. Internet Interdisciplinary Institute. DOI: 10.7238/IN3WPS.V0I0.1216
- Mamishev, A. and S.D. Williams. (2010). Technical Writing for Teams: The STREAMTools Handbook. NY: John Wiley (IEEE Imprint).
- Williams, S.D., ed. (2008) Technical Communication Special Edition on “Virtual Worlds.” Technical Communication 55(3).
- Williams, S.D., ed. (2002). “Special Edition on “Webtextuality.” Text Technology 11(1).
Refereed Journal Articles
- Williams, S.D. (2021). “From Domination of the Environment to Stewardship: A Historical Look at Denver Water’s Public Communication 1933-2018.” Journal of Technical Writing and Communication. doi.org/10.1177/00472816211037937.
- Williams, S.D., Ilyasova, K.A. (2021). “So You Want Your Own Tech Comm Department? One Program’s Story of Successfully Separating from English.” Technical Communication Quarterly 30(4). doi.org/10.1080/10572252.2020.1866677.
- Williams, S.D., Ammetller, G., Rodriguez, I., and Li, X (2020). “Narratives of International Women Entrepreneurs: An Exploratory Case Study of Identity Negotiation.” IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication. 63(1):39-51 DOI 10.1109/TPC.2019.2961016
- Williams, S.D., Spinuzzi, C., and Newbold, C. (2019). “Toward a Heuristic for Teaching the Visual Rhetoric of Pitch Decks: A Pedagogical Approach in Entrepreneurship Communication.” Communication Design Quarterly, 7(4)
- Caranante, G., & Williams, S.D. (2018). “Using the Production of Welfare Framework to Measure the Success of Short-Term Marketing Campaign: A Case Study.” Voluntary Sector Review, 9 (3): 331-40.
- Cardwell, L.A., Williams, S.D. and Pyle, A. (2017). “Corporate public relations dynamics: Internal vs. external stakeholders and the role of the practitioner.” Public Relations Review, 43(1): 152-162.
- Whalen, Joel, Williams, S.D., et al (2016) “Let’s have a cup of coffee and create some out-of-the-box teaching innovations, enhance cross-cultural communication and accelerate students’ professional development.” Business & Professional Communication Quarterly. 79(3): 371-92.
- Williams, S.D., Ammetller, G., Rodriguez, I., and Li, X (2016). “International Entrepreneurship Narratives: A Perspective on the Rhetorical Construction of Global Entrepreneurship.” IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication 59(4): 379-397.
- Williams, S.D. (2010). “A rhetorical theory of transformation in entrepreneurial narrative: the case of The Republic of Tea.” ACORN: An Issue about The Republic of Tea, 15. Clemson University Press.
- Williams, S.D. (2010). “Interpretive Discourse and Other Models from Communication Studies: Expanding the Values of Technical Communication.” Journal of Technical Writing and Communication. 40(4): 429-446.
- Williams, S.D. and Bekins, L. (2006). “Positioning Technical Communication for the Creative Economy.” Technical Communication 53(3): 287-95.
- Williams, S.D. and Love, R. (2005). “Civic Engagement through For-Profit Service Learning: A Democratic Paradox.” Reflections 3(1): 134-54.
- Pringle, K, and Williams, S.D. (2005). “The Future is the Past: Has Technical Communication Come of Age?”. Technical Communication 52(3): 361-70.
- Williams, S.D. and Cooke, L. (2004) “Two Approaches to Using Client-Based Projects in the College Classroom.” Business Communication Quarterly 67(2): 139-53.
- Williams, S.D. (2002). “Teaching and Managing: A Report on Balancing the Fiscal Matters and the Pedagogical Matters of Computer Classroom Administration.” Technical Communication Quarterly 11(4): 339-58.
- Williams, S.D. (2002). “A Theory of Webtextuality.” Text Technology 11(1): 131-37.
- Williams, S.D. (2002). “Constructing Digitality: A Sequence of Assignments.” Kairos: A Journal for Teachers of Writing in Webbed Environments. 7.2.
- Pury, C and Williams, S.D. (2002). “Student Attitudes toward and Participation in Electronic Discussions.” IJET: International Journal of Educational Technology 3.1. Available Online http://www.outreach.uiuc.edu/ijet/v3n1/williams/index.html.
- Williams, S.D. (2002). “Theorizing a Perspective on World Wide Web Argumentation.” JAC: The Journal of Advanced Composition 22(2): 377-98.
- Williams, S.D. (2001). “Part 2: Toward an Integrated Composition Pedagogy in Hypertext.” Computers and Composition. 18(3): 123-35.
- Williams, S.D. “Part 1: Thinking Out of the Pro-Verbal Box.” Computers and Composition. 18(2): 21-32.
- Williams, S.D. (1999). "Structured Dissonance and the Art of Building Arguments for the World Wide Web." The WWW Journal for Online Education. Internet. Available Online: http://www.nyu.edu/classes/keefer/waoe/waoej.html.
- Williams, S.D. (1997). “‘I was DOGGED, DISSED & DUMPED ON “ricki”...do me RIGHT and hook me up Again!” or The Way to Institutionalize Superficial Consumerism.” International Journal of Media and Communication Studies. Available Online: http://www.aber.ac.uk/~jmcwww/papers.html.
- Williams, S.D. (1996). “Chaucer's the Complaint of Mars.” The Explicator, 54(3): 132-134.
- Williams, S. D., & Switzer, D. M. (2010). Assessing 3D Virtual World Learning Environments with the CIMPLe System. In Virtual Environments for Corporate Education: Employee Learning and Solutions. Ritke-Jones, W. Ed. (pp. 147-68). IGI global.
- Williams, S. D. (2010). Forming Trust in Virtual Writing Teams: Perspectives and Applications. In B. Hewett, & C. Robidoux (Eds.), Virtual Collaborative Writing in the Workplace: Computer-Mediated Communication Technologies and Processes (pp. 88-111). IGI Global. https://doi.org/10.4018/978-1-60566-994-6.ch005
- Williams, S.D. (2008). Dreamweaver and the procession of simulations: What you see is not why you get what you get. Small tech: The culture of digital tools. Hawke, B., Rieder, D., & Oviedo, O Eds. (pp. 22-57).
- Hilligoss, S., & Williams, S.D. (2007). Composition Meets Visual Communication. Digital writing research: Technologies, methodologies, and ethical issues. McKee, H. & DeVoss, D. Eds. (pp 229-247). Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.
- Yancey, K., Williams, S.D., et al. (2004). “Notes toward a ‘Reflective Instrumentalism’: A Collaborative Look at Clemson University's MAPC Program.” In Innovative Approaches to Teaching Teaching Technical Communication Bridgeford, T., Saari Kitalong, K., & Selfe, D. Eds.. (pp. 93-110). Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press
Refereed Conference Proceedings Papers
- Williams, S.D. (2022). “Exploring the User Experience Design of Commercially-Available Cybersecurity Products for Mobile Devices.” Proceedings of the IEEE Professional Communication Society.
- Williams, S.D. (2021). “So You Want Your Own Tech Comm Department?” Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Council of Programs in Technical and Scientific Communication.
- Williams, S.D. (2012). “The Role of Social Media in Startups: A Preliminary Investigation.” Proceedings of The International Symposium on Language and Communication. Izmir, Turkey.
- Williams, S.D. (2007). “User Experience Design for Technical Communication.” Proceedings of the IEEE Professional Communication Society.
- Williams, S.D. (2005). “Using Color as a Navigation Device in Online Information Spaces.” Proceedings of the 7th Annual Meeting of the International Society of Knowledge Organization. Barcelona, Spain.
- Williams, S.D. (2005). “Leaders, Managers and Producers: Repositioning Technical Communicators for the Creative Economy.” Proceedings of the IEEE Professional Communication Society.
- Williams, S.D., Heifferon, B and Yancey, K. (2001). “Reflective Instrumentalism as a Possible Guide for Revising a Master’s Degree Reading List.” Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Council of Programs in Technical and Scientific Communication.
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