By Wesley Wells
Dr. Ivy Taylor has worn many different hats in her career before becoming the president of Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi. A native of Queens, New York, Taylor spent twenty years in San Antonio, Texas as an affordable housing advocate, educator and elected official before beginning her current role at Rust. Ivy served as mayor of San Antonio, Texas for three years and as a member of the San Antonio City Council for five years.
Taylor says there are differences between working in politics and education, but there are many similarities and that helped prepare her for her duties to lead the college.
“There are many similarities- everyone is working for the good of an institution,” Taylor said. “But different stakeholders have different ideas about what is best. The thing that makes working in higher education easier is that we can all agree that we must serve the students.”
Coming from heavily populated areas, such as Queens and San Antonio, to a small, rural environment like Holly Springs hasn’t fazed Taylor. She has enjoyed her time at the institution and is appreciative of the area.
“I am originally from the Northeast, but lived in Texas for 22 years and had forgotten how much I appreciate tall trees, greenery and the changing of seasons,” Taylor said. “The fall colors in Mississippi are breathtaking and I enjoy taking rides along the countryside.”
In May, the Board of Trustees at Rust College selected Ivy to serve as 12th president of Rust College, a United Methodist-affiliated HBCU. Ivy made history by becoming the first woman president of the institution, which was founded in 1866 to educate freed slaves.
Ivy gained experience in HBCU’s in San Antonio. While serving as mayor, Ivy joined the Board of Trustees of a historically Black college in Austin, Texas and this sparked an interest in using her leadership skills at an HBCU. After leaving the mayor’s office, she enrolled in a doctoral program in higher education management at the University of Pennsylvania. She wrote her dissertation on board governance at HBCUs. In 2020, she completed the program, obtaining a Doctor of Education degree. Ivy also obtained a Master’s Degree in City and Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1998. In 1992, she received a Bachelor’s Degree from Yale University.
Even though navigating the current pandemic has been challenging, Ivy said things are going well and she has enjoyed her tenure so far.
“I have really enjoyed the experience of being Rust College President, despite the current pandemic,” She said. “I certainly look forward to moving past the pandemic so that I can safely interact more frequently with students in person and welcome the surrounding community back to the campus. The students have been the best part of the experience. Seeing their enthusiasm, perseverance and potential is inspiring.”
Ivy sees the improvements on the campus but states there is plenty of room for improvement and some immediate needs, including making investments in its physical and digital plant.
“Rust College needs to make investments in upgrading both our physical and digital plant,” Taylor says. “We have made a lot of progress over the years in relation to technology, but recently technology has become an ever more important aspect of the educational experience for students.”
Taylor says she has a strong vision for the school and is very much looking forward to the future.
“My vision is that Rust College will be a student-centered institution that offers a wide array of opportunities for students to develop personally and intellectually in a nurturing environment,” she added. “We want to build on the incredible history of the institution and better connect to the surrounding community through educational and community programs that spark civic engagement and preservation of the area’s cultural and historic assets. I want Rust graduates to leave here ready for the world’s challenges and secure in the knowledge of their own potential.”