Freddie Williams Named Recipient of 2013 CalSouthern Difference Award

Jul 12, 2013 by University Communications

CalSouthern doctoral student overcomes monumental challenges to earn his graduate degree and give back to his community

Irvine, California—July 16, 2013—California Southern University has named Freddie Williams the recipient of the 2013 CalSouthern Difference Award, presented annually to a CalSouthern student or alumnus who makes a difference in his or her area of practice, field of study or local community through distinguished scholarship, innovation or service. Mr. Williams will be presented with the award at the university's 2013 Commencement Ceremony, to be held at the Irvine Barclay Theatre on August 3, at 2:00 p.m.

Mr. Williams has overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles—poverty, an abusive father, decades of addiction, homelessness, multiple incarcerations and HIV infection. Almost 15 years clean and sober, Mr. Williams has earned his Master of Arts (Psychology) at CalSouthern and is now enrolled in the university's PsyD program. He is a mental health clinician specializing in addiction counseling and the founder of Shifting Gears, an organization specializing in substance abuse treatment and HIV education. He is a sought-after speaker, a board member of The Design for Living treatment facility, a former member of the L.A. County HIV Prevention and Planning Committee and past chairman of the California HIV Planning Group. He plans to use his doctoral studies in developing an innovative, holistic wrap-around treatment modality for addicted individuals.

“I am truly humbled and blessed by this wonderful honor,” says Mr. Williams. “I am so grateful to CalSouthern not only for naming me the recipient of this award, but also for the doors my education has opened for me.”

“Freddie Williams is the perfect embodiment of the ideals upon which the CalSouthern Difference Award was founded,” says University President Dr. Caroll Ryan. “By simply surviving the challenges he has faced in his life, he has shown remarkable strength and courage. But he then earned an advanced degree and is pursuing his doctorate, all while applying the knowledge and skills he gains to help others who face similar challenges turn their lives around. He is an inspiration to the entire CalSouthern community.”

Members of the media and interested members of the public are invited to attend the CalSouthern Difference Award presentation, held in conjunction with the university's graduation ceremony. Admission is complimentary.


About CalSouthern:

Founded in 1978, California Southern University is an accredited online university offering online degree programs at the associate, bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels in business, law, criminal justice and psychology to an international student body, utilizing a proprietary learning system. CalSouthern is accredited by the Distance Education Accreditation Commission. The Distance Education Accrediting Commission is listed by the U.S. Department of Education as a nationally recognized accrediting agency. The Distance Education Accrediting Commission is a recognized member of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. To learn more about CalSouthern, please visit

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