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Ruth Jones Nichols ’96

Senior Advisor for Public Engagement with the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development

Major: {{https://www.wm.edu/as/sociology,Sociology}}

When Ruth Jones Nichols first came to William & Mary, she wanted to be a pediatrician. During her freshman year, her science lab reinforced the fact that she didn’t like the sight of blood, so she decided to switch her major to sociology. 

After graduation, Ruth jumpstarted a 25-year career in the non-profit sector and earned her master’s and doctorate degrees. In her role as President & CEO of the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore, Ruth drew on her strong sociology background to get to the root causes of why people stand in line at the food bank. Ruth later served as Chief Movement Officer with Feeding America before being appointed to serve in the Biden-Harris administration to act as a strategist, thought leader and key liaison for private sector stakeholders, underrepresented community-based organizations and people with lived experience of housing instability.

Ruth uses her sociology background to guide her work as a social change advocate. “I want to be a person who brings about systemic change in society — a person who challenges the social structures and the status quo,” she says. “I want to do that in a way that levels the playing field for marginalized people who have not been represented at the table.” 

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