We all have aspirations for success in various forms, but what exactly is it? Many definitions exist today, but there’s a common thread that most people agree on: success emerges when one perseveres through failures while pursuing a worthwhile goal. If you’re seeking an inspiring tale of someone who defied the odds, Dr. Patricia Ramsey, the sixth president of Medgar Evers College – CUNY, is a prime example. Recognized among the “Top 10 Most Influential Women Leaders Transforming Education in 2023,” Dr. Ramsey shares her success story to motivate you to pursue your dreams. She wants everyone to believe that accomplishing the “impossible” is attainable, even when faced with failures, setbacks, and challenges. Achieving such feats is possible only when one’s objectives are driven by intrinsic motivation and devoid of any external comparisons.
She underscores: “Success is reaching the goal you set for yourself, no matter what that goal. I feel that you should never measure your success by comparing yourself to others.”
Dr. Patricia Ramsey’s approach to seeking knowledge mirrors that of a genuine leader. Her belief in the principle, “Don’t be afraid to ask because if you ask not, you get not,” reflects her proactive attitude towards acquiring information and understanding. She encourages that one must not hesitate to inquire or seek clarification to gain knowledge or opportunities. This perspective aligns with effective leadership, as it emphasizes the importance of curiosity, initiative, and the willingness to seek answers or solutions when needed rather than passively waiting for them to come.
Since her fourth-grade years, Dr. Ramsey aspired to pursue a career as a college professor. However, she lacked a comprehensive understanding of the field at that time. It was not until her tenth-grade year that she decided to specialize in Biology, primarily influenced by an exceptional biology teacher. During her undergraduate studies, she pursued a Biology Education major and obtained three (3) graduate degrees in biological sciences. She successfully realized her childhood aspiration of pursuing a career as a college professor. She steadily progressed through the academic hierarchy to attain the esteemed position of full professor in the field of biology. Dr. Ramsey’s decision to transition into academic leadership was motivated by her students.
Early Challenges and Growth as a Female Leader
This adroit professional attributes her years of overcoming challenges as a Black Female scientist as instrumental in preparing her for the role of an academic leader.
Pandemic Leadership and Celebrating Milestones
In 2021, during the pandemic shutdown, Dr. Patricia Ramsey was appointed to the position of President of Medgar Evers College, CUNY, becoming the first female and the first scientist to hold this esteemed position at the College. As per her, the pandemic was so devastating, that we should celebrate any “small wins,” in trying to achieve a sense of “normalcy,” post-pandemic.
Contribution to the Education Industry
Dr. Ramsey has always advocated for the mindset of “Stand in the shoes of a student and treat that student the way that you would wish to be treated.” Her primary focus as a higher education leader has been on her students’ achievement. This approach reflects her commitment to creating a supportive and nurturing mentorship environment where aspiring leaders can thrive. She thinks that women in leadership positions are sometimes “put in a box” and expected to act in a predetermined way. For example, during an interview for a VP position, a male department chair stated that he did not want a female supervisor and asked how Ramsey was going to handle that. Her response was, ………
“I won’t allow your problem to become my problem.” The hiring president subsequently shared that it was because of her unusual response that she received the vote from all except that person; however, he later became one of her biggest fans.”
Influencing the Next Generation of Women
“The actions of a leader can greatly impact the younger generation,” says the MEC President. As a result, she emphasizes the importance of leaders being aware that their actions carry more weight than their words. Consequently, the alignment of their character and reputation is of utmost significance.
Academic and Leadership Highlights
Dr. Patricia Ramsey transitioned to Medgar Evers College after holding a senior executive fellow position at the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF). Her perspective is distinctive, underpinned by a robust wealth of experience. She holds both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Throughout her career, she has occupied significant roles at four HBCUs, including positions such as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Lincoln University and Bowie State University, where she served as a tenured full professor, provost, interim president, and chair of the natural sciences department. Moreover, her professional experience extends across international borders, encompassing Europe and Africa, thus giving her a global perspective.
Dr. Ramsey possesses a rich academic background, boasting a Master of Science in Botany from Howard University, a Master of Arts in Biology from Harvard University, and a Ph.D. in Biology from Georgetown University. Her profound expertise in Biology is unmistakable. Notably, her research interests revolve around investigating the biological properties of plants steeped in folklore. Her fieldwork includes collecting 110 species of Agave in the Sonoran Desert and an extensive 450-mile journey to gather Sapium Sebiferum (popcorn tree) leaves in the southeastern United States.
Her educational journey commenced at Norfolk State University, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology Education. Additionally, Dr. Ramsey has completed executive leadership programs at AASCU’s Millennium Leadership Initiative (MLI), Harvard’s Institute for Educational Management (IEM), and the CIVIC Leadership Institute, further enhancing her leadership acumen.
This seasoned executive regards her most significant achievement though she has received numerous accolades, to be told by a student, “you saved my life, because I was contemplating suicide.” On a tangible level, one of her notable accomplishments was serving as the guiding force behind developing a grant proposal to provide tuition funding and paid internships for MEC students. The outcome of this endeavor was the attainment of a $20-million grant after only six weeks as President.
Medgar Evers College (MEC) – Nurturing Social Justice Legacy and Academic Excellence
Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York (CUNY) has its roots firmly embedded in the vibrant Black community of Central Brooklyn. With a profound commitment to social justice ingrained in its essence, the institution takes its name from the revered civil rights activist Medgar Wiley Evers, whose life was tragically cut short due to his dedication to civil rights causes.
Medgar Evers College is renowned for conferring both associate and baccalaureate degrees, with the field of biology holding the distinction of being its most substantial major. Notably, the College occupies a distinguished position, tied for the top spot within CUNY, regarding the percentage of students who pursue advanced studies in graduate and professional schools following their undergraduate education.
President’s Roles and Responsibilities
The President of Medgar Evers College – CUNY, Dr. Patricia Ramsey, holds a multifaceted role with significant responsibilities. These are outlined in the Bylaws of the CUNY Board of Trustees, and encompass safeguarding and advancing the college’s educational standards and overall academic excellence within her purview. It includes the pivotal duty of recommending individuals to the chancellor for appointment, promotion, and the awarding of tenure, focusing on those poised to enhance academic excellence at the institution.
Furthermore, her role extends to the general superintendence of the college’s facilities, concerns, officers, employees, and students. President Ramsey serves as the chairperson of the College Council, and the personnel and budget committee. Dr. Ramsey is entrusted with transmitting recommendations from her faculty on curriculum and other matters within faculty jurisdiction to the chancellor.
Additionally, she is responsible for recommending an annual college budget to the chancellor, among other duties and responsibilities. One of her other major responsibilities is presiding over commencement and conferring degrees.
In alignment with the Medgar Evers College Leadership Profile, Dr. Ramsey’s overarching mission is to reestablish the College’s prominence and reputation within Central Brooklyn and beyond. She strives to set a model for student-centered leadership, carve out the College’s distinctive niche in a competitive higher education landscape, develop a sustainable business model, promote the College externally to attract new resources and foster meaningful engagement with external communities.
Motivation and Leadership Philosophy
Under the guiding principle of “Respectful Leadership,” Dr. Patricia Ramsey places paramount importance on valuing the human resource as the cornerstone of effective leadership. In her unwavering commitment to fostering a motivated team at Medgar Evers College – CUNY, she underlines the significance of accessibility, collaboration, and shared responsibility.
Her leadership philosophy hinges on the belief that “As a leader, your greatest resource is the human resource; you should always treat people respectfully.” When queried about her approach to motivating her team, she emphasizes her availability, active solicitation of team input, and commitment to leading by example. She refrains from assigning tasks to her team that she wouldn’t undertake, instilling a sense of shared purpose and unity within the organization.
Strategies for Achieving Work-Life Balance
President Ramsey of Medgar Evers College – CUNY admits that she tends to put the needs of others above self. However, she does employ a deliberate approach in trying to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Given her frequent involvement in weekend events, she prioritizes safeguarding at least one day per week for personal time, as she feels it’s a critical aspect of her leadership, such that she can be her “best self.” To facilitate this, she relies on her proficient assistant, whose support is invaluable in managing her commitments. Furthermore, President Ramsey attributes her unwavering motivation and equilibrium to her faith, which serves as a steadfast source of inspiration in her demanding role.
President’s Vision for Medgar Evers College – CUNY
When queried about the future trajectory of Medgar Evers College – CUNY, the distinguished president envisions a strategic path guided by Accountability, Continuous Improvement, Community Engagement, Equity, Sustainability, and Student Success (ACCESS), to become a model of social justice for this nation. The great work of the Medgar Evers College Strategic Planning Committee provided strategies to achieve the vision.
- Accountability and Continuous Improvement: Embracing a culture of continuous improvement, Medgar Evers College will regularly evaluate its operations and educational offerings. Any identified areas that need enhancement will be addressed, which will reinforce the College’s commitment to excellence and adaptability.
- Community Engagement and Strategic Partnerships: Medgar Evers College will evaluate its existing partnerships and will also forge new partnerships that are strategically aligned with the College’s mission and the needs of its students. These alliances will be pivotal in providing enriching educational experiences and opportunities.
- Equity: The community in the vicinity of the College was the hardest hit by Covid-19. There will be greater intentionality around social equity (health, food, justice, environmental).
- Sustainability: The College recognizes the importance of financial sustainability. To ensure long-term viability, the College is assessing its financial landscape and exploring various options for sustaining financial health and stability.
- Student Success: The College is committed to enhancing recruitment, retention, and graduation rates by implementing comprehensive, collaborative, innovative, and institution-wide strategies that are tailored for the students that we serve. We plan to equip students for success inside the classroom, outside the classroom and for life.
Dr. Patricia Ramsey’s personal goal of mentoring aspiring female leaders stems from her dedication to empowering women, breaking down gender-related leadership barriers, fostering diversity in leadership, paying forward the mentorship she received, finding personal fulfillment in helping others, and building a supportive network of like-minded individuals, all of which collectively contribute to a more inclusive and equitable leadership landscape.
Message to Future Female Educational Leaders
Dr. Patricia Ramsey’s dedication to mentoring aspiring women in leadership roles in the education field aligns seamlessly with her commitment to social justice. In 2023, she had the honor of taking some of the MEC students to Mississippi on the 60th anniversary of the assassination of Medgar Wiley Evers. During this visit, they paid tribute to Mrs. Myrlie Evers Williams, a social justice leader in her own right and the widow of Medgar Wiley Evers.
This veteran leader wishes to convey a message to future female educational leaders, urging them to take on various roles within an institution. The message emphasizes the value of following the golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” She concludes, “Always be your authentic self because most people can sense a fake.”