Rolling Out

Ingrid Thompson-Sellers, Atlanta Metropolitan State College president, molding future leaders

As president of Atlanta Metropolitan State College, Ingrid Thompson-Sellers, PhD, has the vision to help students excel

Ingrid Thompson-Sellers, Atlanta Metropolitan State College president, molding future leaders

With over 30 years of experience in higher education, Ingrid Thompson-Sellers, Ph.D., is eminently qualified to lead Atlanta Metropolitan State College. Appointed as the school’s president in February 2023, Thompson-Sellers is striving to create a brighter future for students, faculty and staff.

AMSC boasts an enrollment of more than 1,600 students, and African Americans comprise 85% of the student body. Thompson-Sellers is aware of the disparities Black students face when it comes to education, and hopes to provide better opportunities for those students.

Thompson-Sellers wants to equip these future leaders with the skills they will need to be in the same, or higher, position than she’s attained.

What inspired you in your personal life and career? Did you have a guiding philosophy?

Having a guiding philosophy influenced by and aligned with my personal values and principles is very important and has helped me to grow in my professional and personal life. I have always been inspired by my parents who were both blue-collar workers. They worked very hard, enjoyed their respective crafts, and instilled some fundamental values in me that I have always carried with me no matter what phase or stage of life I was experiencing. I have always strived to work hard, take pride in anything that I do, continuously learn and grow in my professional field, be mindful that everyone has something to contribute and it is likely not the same as what I bring to the table, and be thankful.

What has been the most difficult challenge as a female president of your institution?

I have only been president of Atlanta Metropolitan State College for about four to five months and I’ve yet to find a difficult challenge that aligns with me being a female. However, if I were to reflect on my first tenure as a female president, it was certainly difficult to gain entry into certain conversations within certain circles in that community. However, other factors need to be considered apart from gender such as culture and race.

What skill sets are essential for future leaders in our community?

One of the primary reasons that I left the corporate arena and chose a career in higher education was that I wanted to be a part of the growth and development of young men and women — our future leaders. I believe that each generation comes with its own dispositions influenced by many external and internal factors. Individuals will have inherent strengths which as educators we foster and help them to develop but also there will be opportunities for adding new skills, increasing knowledge, and enhancing their abilities through education — from both formal and informal learning opportunities. From my perspective and based on my experience, the core skills that our future leaders need to demonstrate are to engage productively and positively in a team environment, communicate effectively through active listening and effective delivery across multiple platforms, being able to lead as well as follow, be creative and resourceful, and always have a strong moral code and compass by which they operate.

Ingrid Thompson-Sellers, Atlanta Metropolitan State College president, molding future leaders

What do you value about your team?

As president, I recognize and celebrate the uniqueness of each member of the team and value their individual contributions. Overall, our success is contingent upon accepting our distinctiveness and working together toward our common goals despite our differences.

What three lessons would you want your students to embrace that will prepare them for the real world?

Be very selective in who you let into your inner circle, not everyone will have your best interest at heart. Find your “why” so that you can keep moving forward. The journey will not be smooth and you will find that there will be days when you will need to remember your “why.” Don’t stop until you complete your journey. There will be times when a pause is necessary for you to replenish, refresh, refocus, or simply catch your breath.

What issues facing the Black community could change most dramatically if we united?

There are a number of issues that face the Black community that I believe could change for the better if there was less divisiveness in our society in general. One common denominator that I believe we could all stand on is the power of having access to quality education. Having a solid educational background most often can change the life of an individual, a family as well as their community.

How relevant are colleges and universities in today’s society?

Having a college/university degree or certificate changes the socioeconomic status of an individual. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Education Pays 2022 data, having more education reduces unemployment and as educational attainment increases so does wages earned, taking into account other variables such as profession/degree. Having some credentialing beyond a high school diploma irrespective of whether it is a degree or a certificate, in an applied field or otherwise makes a difference in the trajectory of a person’s life.

With a large number of educated African Americans, why are Black students faced with so many challenges?

Despite having an increasing number of educated African Americans in society, Black students still have many challenges because of a number of societal factors. Not having a strong support system is perhaps the biggest challenge. Today, a significant number of African American students are first-generation college students. Navigating the complexities of gaining access to and successfully progressing [through] and completing college is still a barrier. There is also inequity in access to adequate college preparatory resources within the Black community.

Which philosopher or author should every college student study for a better outlook on life?

Paulo Coelho, author of The Alchemist.

Name three books that changed how you saw life and you would recommend to others.

The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living by Dalai Lama & Howard C. Cutler speaks about ethics while combining ancient ideology with modern theories and practices in psychology. Born A Crime by Trevor Noah reinforces the importance of family and having a strong support system while debating the concept of race, nationality, and identity. Hit Refresh by Satya Nadella speaks to the importance of valuing people and having empathy for others.

Describe why life-long learning is important to you and how you prepare yourself to stay ahead in your field.

I have always been and will continue to be a student my entire life because I enjoy learning. From formal instruction to acquiring a new skill or even those harsh lessons make me become a better person because of the experiences. Therefore, I am constantly retooling myself by participating in any learning situation that challenges me within formal and informal settings. These could be related to my field of practice, leadership, or outside of these domains.

Describe goal setting methods you use and how you evaluate your success.

In my lifetime I have developed two separate timelines for both my personal and professional goals. Goals that are more short-term are set with a 12-to-24-month timeline and then there are others that span up to five years. My goals are usually written down in a place where I can have easy and quick access to them, usually my cellphone. Though I love to challenge myself I typically set targets based on a set timeline but will also exercise flexibility after reviewing each goal periodically. Success is based on performance standards that I set for myself that I don’t compare with others. I use reflection as a tool to guide and gauge my progress so that I remain focused on the things that matter most.

What are your best characteristics that make you a good leader?

As a leader, my natural strength and disposition lie in my strong analytical skills that enable me to use logic, clear thinking, and rationale to problem solve, make data informed decisions, and learn by quick situational analysis. However, I possess a conceptual side where I use my creativity, imagination, and intuitive skills to create a vision and not be fearful of failure.

Images by Torian Priestly

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