Pioneer Profile: Shakira Williams-Linzey ’93 Creates Positive Change for Mothers, Babies Across the Region

Shakira Williams-Linzey ‘93, Director of maternal and infant health with March of Dimes

For more than two decades, Shakira Williams-Linzey ‘93, who earned her bachelor’s degree in community school health from William Paterson University, has been committed to improving maternal and infant/child health outcomes, with a focus on reducing racial, ethnic, and economic disparities.

She is the New Jersey-New York director of maternal and infant health with March of Dimes, a national organization that advocates for policies, pioneers research, and creates educational programs to help mothers have healthier pregnancies and babies. In acknowledgement of her important work, she was one of NJ Governor Phil Murphy’s special guests during his 2023 State of the State Address.

Before March of Dimes, Williams-Linzey was a longtime administrator with the Central Jersey Health Consortium, serving first as regional manager of NJ’s Early Intervention System for children with special needs from birth through age three, and then as director of reproductive health and childhood initiatives.

As part of William Paterson University’s celebration of Women’s History Month, she spoke on campus about the personal and professional path that led her to become a champion for families across the Garden State and beyond.

During her presentation at WP, she spoke fondly of her time as a WP student, sharing many personal stories and photos with the crowd. Williams-Linzey was very involved with student organizations on campus including her beloved Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. (she is still an active member in her local chapter 30 years later), SABLE, Greek Senate, EOF, and the Organization of Minority Students. She also held several jobs on campus, ranging from clerical work in the EOF office and resident assistant in Pioneer Hall to concession stand cashier at home football games.

The sum of her campus experiences and all the diverse people she met through them, Williams-Linzey explained, gave her the confidence and interpersonal skills to succeed in college and well beyond.

Once a reserved freshman, as a senior, Williams-Linzey asked WP president Arnie Speert to write her a letter of recommendation for graduate school (he did) and she was elected homecoming queen. She recalled how touched she was that several members of her extended campus family showed up to cheer her on from the Wightman Field stands that day. She maintains close friendships with many fellow Pioneers still; one was in the audience for her presentation. 

“Anything is possible when you have the right people there to support you,” Williams-Linzey said, quoting ballet dancer Misty Copeland.

After earning her master’s in public health at Temple University, Williams-Linzey was recruited by Cigna through its national leadership program. She was one of 10 people selected from across the U.S. Five years later, with everything going for her, she gave birth to her first child at 25 weeks of gestation—almost 4 months before her due date. Her whole world changed. When she re-entered the workforce after time off to care for her new baby with special needs, Williams-Linzey did so with a renewed sense of purpose and passion, pivoting to community-based work focused on helping other parents and their young children.

It was a professional change that has created personal change for innumerable lives.

The proud alum recounted a story for the crowd: Recently, she called her eye doctor’s office with a question. The receptionist, upon hearing the caller’s name, explained that she happened to be the mother of a son with autism whose case no agency was willing to take—until Williams-Linzey helped the family through her work with Early Intervention more than a decade ago. “She told me that her son is in the marching band now and they have my photo on their fridge.”

Williams-Linzey is on the Leadership Council of New Jersey Statewide Network of Cultural Competency, a member of the NJ Association of Infant Mental Health, Central New Jersey Maternal Experience Survey Advisory Board, a member of the New Brunswick Area of the NAACP, and Mocha Moms Inc. of Middlesex County.

She lives in Middlesex County with her husband and three children. Her youngest, son Tamir Linzey, graduated from WP in May.

Shakira Williams-Linzey speaks during Women's History Month
Williams-Linzey with her son, Tamir Linzey '23
With students during her presentation on campus