Profiles in Power highlights public officials nationwide who are improving their communities through their dedication, enthusiasm, creativity and experience.
This week’s profile is Dr. Marcus L. Thompson, president of Jackson State University.
Public career highlights and education: My greatest highlight to date is being named the 13th president of Jackson State University. It is Mississippi’s only urban research institution, and we offer a wide range of programming that aligns with industry demands and meets students where they are. Leading this distinguished HBCU that fosters academic prominence, student success and research excellence is an honor.
I have over 20 years of leadership experience in early childhood, K-12 and higher education. I served as the deputy commissioner and chief administrative officer of the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, Mississippi’s public university system, overseeing Institutions of Higher Learning staff and senior-level administrators for over a decade.
I further served as a liaison between the Institutions of Higher Learning Commissioner’s Office, the Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees, and Mississippi’s eight public universities – Alcorn State University, Delta State University, Jackson State University, Mississippi State University, Mississippi University for Women, Mississippi Valley State University, the University of Mississippi and the University of Southern Mississippi.
I earned my Bachelor of Arts in history and Spanish and a Master of Education from Mississippi College. I hold a Doctor of Philosophy degree in urban higher education from Jackson State University.
I am a former educator and administrator, serving private and public schools in the Jackson Public School and Copiah County School Districts in Mississippi. I have endorsements to teach elementary education and licenses to teach English, history, mathematics and Spanish.
I ultimately left the classroom and joined the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) to have a broader impact on students statewide. At MDE, I became chief of staff and assistant to the state superintendent of Education.
What I like best about public service: I love helping students learn and using education to transform their lives, whether from an educator or administrator standpoint. At Jackson State University, the students serve as the North Star or guiding light for my decision-making. It is because of them that we are here.
I further enjoy it when our students secure scholarship opportunities because it rewards their acumen and discipline while easing the financial cost of matriculation. Funding can be a pain point for students and prevent them from bringing their dreams to fruition. Witnessing and participating in such moments reaffirms why I chose to work in education.
I also like discovering when our students receive internships that become permanent job offers because it emphasizes the quality education JSU provides, the talent of our faculty and staff who prepare them for an evolving workforce, and a life of service to others while improving their social mobility.
The most rewarding aspect of public service in higher education is watching students reach the commencement stage. The mixture of elation, relief, and anticipation of their next chapter radiates from them, and you get caught up in that emotion. It is an absolute joy to witness their happiness and a new beginning in their lives.
The best advice I’ve received: Do something you are passionate about, and you’ll feel as though you’ve never worked a day in your life! I do believe my work in higher education is my passion as well as my purpose, which makes the work very enjoyable.
People might be interested to know that: I consider myself an introvert and a somewhat private person. However, every now and then, I enjoy singing at my church. Most people don’t know that I can sing. It’s something I enjoy doing in my personal time.
One thing I wish more people knew about county government: At any level, those who work in public education are making a tangible difference in this world. Sometimes, it may not seem as rewarding when we start to examine pay equity and the cost of living. But educators and administrators are truly helping our youth develop into life-saving doctors, patent-producing engineers, community-changing researchers and entrepreneurs who are filling a product gap or service void. So, they must have the support and resources necessary to continue making that same impact on our current and future generations. Many educators are sacrificing comfort and financial stability because they love helping create life-changing outcomes for our youth. But they frankly need more support, from K-12 to college levels, in ways that are necessary for them to thrive as educators.