Kat Thompson ’09 Stay open to limitless possibilities and remain resilient
By: Brandi Randolph
The year is 2005. The news broadcasted about strong winds and rain going towards the Florida region, then rerouting towards the Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana, and Mississippi. I remember learning about Hurricane Katrina in college, and a huge part of the conversation was about the lack. The lack of government assistance, lack of food and shelter for the people stuck and displaced in their own hometown, and a lack of a swift response. Even though all this lack existed, one woman looked back on Katrina and the experiences that resulted from it, and said, “It’s probably one of the best things that could’ve happened to me”. That woman is named Katreequia “Kat” Thompson.
Kat was born in Houston, Texas but grew up in Bastrop, Louisiana with her mom’s side of the family. She was raised by her mom and was one of six siblings in her household. She developed a passion for public speaking and performing arts as early as elementary school through the mentorship of her teachers. This passion continued through high school where she went to an arts and science magnet program at the public high school in Bastrop. Then, she received a Randolph Peters scholarship to go to the School of Performing Arts at Dillard University in 2003. The first two years of Kat’s undergraduate career was spent being active on campus; she was a cheerleader and pledged Delta Sigma Theta, Inc. up until 2005 when Katrina hit Louisiana.
When Katrina blew through, Kat felt that it uprooted everything for her (such as stability and resources she had in Bastrop). She went through a period of uncertainty where she could not go back to Dillard because it had sustained $400 million in severe flood and fire damage. In her 20’s, she thought this was terrible, she knows now when looking back on it that it allowed her to travel the country, and experience different things.
One of these things was being able to attend Kent State University for a semester to continue getting her Bachelor of Arts in theater studies. Kat had a professor named Professor Sherry Marina who was from Ohio state who had been teaching at Dillard that reached out to Kat and five other students to go to Kent State. While at Kent State, Kat had experiences that made her, “become an adult quick” as she put it. She recounted that she experienced both racial profiling and stereotyping during a traffic stop after going shopping. This is when Kat realized, “[She’s] always going to have to prove that [she] belongs”. This encounter with police sparked her interest in injustice and began her thinking of how to be a voice for the voiceless.
Before the fall semester of 2006, Dr. Garey A. Hyatt reached out to Kat as his former student from Dillard. Dr. Hyatt wanted Kat to come to Baltimore to be a part of the beginning stages of the Urban Arts program at Coppin. Kat traveled to Baltimore unsure what would await her there but gratefully she learned life lessons while on campus. One lesson she learned was, “You can go out in the world and not have [resources] but still make some amazing things happen”, and that’s what Kat and her classmates achieved while a part of the Urban Arts major over the next two years. She participated in more than just her major; she did costume design for the Mr. and Mrs. Coppin pageant and bonded with the Deltas. Kat graduated in 2009 with her Bachelor of Science in Urban Arts with a concentration in theater.
After Kat graduated from Coppin, she moved to New York City. She auditioned for some off-Broadway productions and went on the road with the children’s production company named Project Educational Theater as the company manager for a year. Her time as a company manager with the production company helped give her some leadership training for various positions she will have in the future. Her interest in injustice was revived and she discovered that she could fight injustices by working in human resources while also providing for her twins. This is what she did starting in 2011.
In 2011, Kat began working at Target in their management trainee program. While she was there, for the next five years, she attended business college. She wanted a career, “that kept her in contact with people”. In 2017, she was the global supply chain human resources officer at Walgreens and oversaw the change from Rite Aid to Walgreen’s for the entire Eastern region. She was at Walgreens for three years before being recruited by Audi Luxury Brands. For the past two years, Kat has been the Senior Director of Human Resources for the corporate office in Virginia for Audi for America. What she values about her position with Audi is that she, “can give a voice to those [who] often times do not feel heard”. She gets to fight injustice through her tireless work in her position.
Her work might seem incredibly glamorous, but it did not come without hard work and struggle. She conveyed to me that, “Being a female in any male dominated industry is a challenge, but also being a black female. [She] had to learn that mentorship and sponsorship might not come in the form of those who look like [her]”. Another challenge that she mentioned she has faced is having to combat the imposter syndrome internally. Kat expressed that she, “continually must remind [herself] that [she] belongs. [That she] is there because [she] worked hard, because [she] deserve to be there”. Kat knows the direction she wants her career to go in moving forward.
Kat’s future in human resources or another field looks bright. Kat pictures herself as a Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) or an executive vice president in either marketing or communications. Where she lands, she is sure, “her passion for people will continue to propel her”. As she continues to make space for herself in the “male dominated industry” she wants Coppin State students to follow her advice whether they want to go into human resources or another field.
Kat advises our current and future students to keep their eyes on the prize when it is difficult. She thinks our students need to know that “It’s okay to pivot or change but stay the course. You never know where those hard times may take you”.
Kat might not have arrived at Coppin under the best circumstances, but she found a home and made lemons out of lemonade.