August 28, 2017
By Kate Huber
For Mary Sellers, following her passion has not only made her career enjoyable but tremendously successful. The 2007 University of Iowa MBA graduate recently was appointed U.S. president of United Way Worldwide, the world’s largest privately funded nonprofit. The Alexandria, Virginia–based organization fights for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in every community across the nation.
But back in 1999, the Science Center of Iowa is what first attracted Sellers to the Hawkeye State. She was recruited to lead the existing Science Center while raising $63 million to build a new Science Center. Sellers rose to the rank of CEO during her decade with the center, which is located in Des Moines, Iowa.
The Science Center opened its downtown Des Moines location in 2005, the same year Sellers began taking classes at the UI, which she credits with creating a new path for her to follow.
“Pursuing my MBA at the UI gave me a new perspective on my work,” says Sellers. “I was exposed to different ways of approaching my work through my courses and classmates.”
Sellers returned to her home state of Florida to care for her parents in 2008, but she hoped to one day return to Iowa. In 2012, she was offered a perfectly timed opportunity to become the president of United Way of Central Iowa.
“Des Moines is a collaborative community that I feel very comfortable in,” says Sellers. “It was a very special opportunity to return to Iowa and take part in the efforts of United Way in the place that I consider home.”
Interacting with central Iowa communities, Sellers coordinated the efforts of community partners, donors, and volunteers. After serving the United Way of Central Iowa for five years, Sellers was named U.S. president of United Way Worldwide this April.
Sellers is now responsible for the strategic direction of almost 1,200 United Ways across the nation. Though she realizes the challenge of uniting these communities, she’s eager to bring everyone together to build stronger communities across the country.
“I’m looking forward to working with United Way Worldwide on a national scale, serving our communities and, in turn, serving our country,” says Sellers.
Sellers credits her successful career to her devotion of nonprofit work.
“I think it’s important to follow your passions,” says Sellers. “I always knew I wanted to work in the nonprofit sector. I wasn’t sure what that path looked like, and I didn’t know where it would take me. But valuing what I’m passionate about helped me to create a career that I love.”