All in the Family: Alumni Parent/Child Duo Serves Diverse Populations

Sean and Saron Williamson

Giving a presentation to the Georgia College Counseling Association Conference might not seem like a typical parent-child activity, but for Sean and Saron Williamson, it was the perfect way to bond together and feed their shared passion for helping others.

The Williamsons workshopped and presented “Working with Queer Students Who are Suicidal” in front of more than 75 attendees in late January. The father and child are both UGA School of Social Work alumni who utilize the skills they learned there to counsel different populations and impact lives.

Their presentation capped their personal and professional journeys to find their true callings. Social work wasn’t a first thought for either Sean or Saron, even though they both share roots in service-oriented fields.

A fruit of the family tree

Sean served as an aircraft mechanic in the U.S. Air Force before entering the civilian ranks where he worked for a number of airlines. But he reached a point where he became miserable in his job, he said, and shifted lanes to pursue a psychology degree.

After finishing his degree at Emmanuel University– where he took courses from his father-in-law, who has been a psychologist for over 44 years – Sean earned an MSW degree from the UGA School of Social Work. The degree led to a new career and a devotion to his work.

“I absolutely love what I do,” Sean said. “I cannot stress that enough. Especially when you compare it to working on airplanes, this is the greatest thing there ever was.”

Saron felt nervous about following the family’s penchant for psychology, but they didn’t know what to pursue. They started as a business major, a step towards a childhood dream of becoming a bakery owner, but ultimately decided on psychology.

As Saron matriculated, they took a course from Sean, who was then an instructor and Director of Counseling Services at Emmanuel University. Saron contemplated another switch to psychiatry, a medical degree, but finished their degree and some post-bachelor classes.

It wasn’t until Saron began volunteering at a sexual assault center in Franklin Springs, Georgia, that they fully embraced their calling to social work. During volunteer and intern work with The Harmony House Center, they found a true connection to the career.

“I was like, ‘This is Social Work; I’m about to become my dad,’” said Saron. “I’m about to get a Master’s of Social Work from UGA, and then I just fully embraced it. It took me a while to come around to it.”

Saron went on to complete their MSW before securing a post-graduate role with a local counseling center. Sean found professional growth, as well, becoming the Director of Counseling Services at Piedmont University in 2022. Today, both Williamsons maintain counseling caseloads while keeping in close contact with one another, even though they work in different Georgia towns.

The special bond that this father and child share is enhanced by the professional relationship that Sean and Saron hold as social workers. Sean, who serves as Director of Counseling Services at Piedmont University, and Saron, who works primarily with queer populations and individuals with non-traditional relationships, are able to share methods, ideas, and approaches with one another.

“The things we have talked about and discussed have really opened my eyes and I think made me much more open as a person and understanding of different lifestyles from mine,” Sean said. “On a very personal level, that has been true, but also on a professional level.”

Although they share different therapy styles and perspectives, the importance of their professional relationship isn’t lost on Saron either. Saron sees a lot of patients that are therapists, counselors or work similar jobs, and they bring that connection to their clients.

“Something I say to them a lot is that it is important to prioritize having relationships with people who are in the field, or at least adjacent, so you can talk about it and process it,” Saron said. “Over the last few years, I’ve realized that I’m privileged to have that built in. Even if I had none of the (professional relationships) I have, I would still have my dad, and I’m more and more aware of what a gift that is.”

Powerful Presentations

Sean had planned to present about suicide prevention in the general college population, and after Saron’s company made plans to attend, he initially wanted Saron to copresent with a bit of commentary on queer populations. Their expertise ultimately resulted in a more pinpointed presentation.

“I just had a lot to say, and it was getting hard to narrow down my thoughts and content,” Saron said. “We looked at it and said it could be its own thing. We decided at the last minute to change it.”

The presentation addressed some of the fears that counselors have about the topic, while informing attendees of better language to use with suicide-related conversations. It connected the general, college, and queer college student populations and mapped out the verbal, behavioral, and situational clues of suicide, while presenting elements of care and a comprehensive model of treatment.

The Williamsons provided a plethora of resources, including standardized assessments and queer-specific mental health tools to the nearly 75 people in the room. Sean gave praise to his child’s performance during their time as keynotes.

“I know I’m a dad, but they are fantastic at presenting – presence, humor, knowledge of the subject – just phenomenal,” Sean said.

The positive reception reflects the effort that Saron puts into their work everyday. It’s been a journey to find their true occupation, but they’re glad to have one that aligns with their values.

“Social work is inherently a social-justice oriented field, and that is really integral to the person I want to be,” Saron said. “It is specifically tailored to help the people I want to help. The people I want to help are marginalized and under-resourced. I can’t imagine doing anything else because it is so tailor-made for what I would be doing no matter what.”

For Sean, the presentation and his career allows him to serve others and enjoy a special bond with his child.

“It gives me the opportunity to walk alongside people in a way that is going to help better their lives, hopefully,” Sean said. “What else could you ask for to share in our lives than something that we are passionate about and get to have these different experiences, come together and talk about those, and learn from each other? I couldn’t be any happier that we’re both in this career and share it together.”

“I’m just a very proud father. I couldn’t be any more proud of what Saron has accomplished, is doing and is working towards. It’s more than I could ever ask for.”

If you or someone you know is facing a mental health crisis, Georgia has a Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988. More information is available at:

Join our commitment to well-being and social justice.

Apply Today Make a Gift