Hailing from a family of educators, Phyllis Qualls, EdD, completed a bachelor’s degree in theater before becoming involved in the field of public relations. She began her career with WJTV-12 and WLBT-3 in a variety of roles, including reporter, anchor, voice-over talent and director of programs. From there, she served as the director of public relations for Tougaloo College before holding the same position with Tennessee State University from 1991 to 2004. She then joined the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, where she was active as the assistant commissioner from 2004 to 2011. During this time, she furthered her studies and earned a Doctor of Education in higher education administration from Vanderbilt University in 2006. Dr. Qualls subsequently moved on to serving as a congressional affairs specialist with the Federal Emergency Management Agency for 2011.
In 2012, Dr. Qualls became the executive director for the Tennessee Economic Council on Women, remaining with the council until she was appointed as the deputy clerk for the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County from 2016 to 2019. Holding significant expertise in education, women’s and minority issues, and media, she made her return to higher education as the vice president for institutional advancement, communications and marketing with American Baptist College in 2019. Today, her duties there include leading promotions, raising funds, working with alumni, and conducting general community outreach. She recently wrote a grant for the college for nearly $3 million—the largest the institution ever received in January 2023. Looking toward the future, Dr. Qualls hopes to successfully see several projects with the college to completion and finish writing two books.
Throughout her career, Dr. Qualls has had the incredible fortune to be able to do work for a variety of high-profile events and individuals. She is also a sought-after speaker in her field and has proffered her expertise as a writer for The Tennessee Tribune, the Jackson Advocate, and The Christian Recorder, the official newspaper of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. The president of the Nashville chapter of Les Gemmes, Inc. and Societas Docta, Inc., she previously served on the board of ATHENA, International and remains affiliated with the Tennessee Women’s Political Caucus and the Women’s Fund of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.
Having received countless accolades over the years, Dr. Qualls was featured in the Tennessee Tribune in a special recognition of Black History Month in 2021. In 2016, she was presented with the Johnella H. Martin Award for outstanding leadership in the community by Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, the ATHENA Award, and the Vision Award from the Tennessee Association of Family and Consumer Science. Early awards to Dr. Qualls’ name include the 2015 Tennessee State University Woman of Legend and Merit Award and the 2012 Woman of Achievement Award from the Young Women’s Christian Association.