Teresa Nance, PhD | Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion | Chief Diversity Officer | Associate Professor
“I come from an aspiring middle-class Black family. That means that of my five sisters and brothers, three of us grew up in inner-city Cleveland and three in a more affluent suburb of Cleveland called Shaker Heights. My mom stayed at home—sort of. She was involved in all our various schools, our community and of course, the inner-city parish we never left even after we moved. Consequently, education and the civil rights movement were critically important in our household. The only way to improve the lives of our family and our race was through education. Implicit here is the obligation to do both, of course.
I did well in school and the activity that gave me identity was debate. I was in a mostly white high school and my oratorical skills and teammates shielded me from the loneliness and isolation that seemed inevitable.
With my success came the family belief that I was headed to law school. And yet, I also did a ton of service. I loved teaching and looked forward to any opportunity to volunteer.
When I went to college, while I continued to debate, I also prepared myself as a teacher (student teaching, etc.) My family, however, kept telling me that I was better than being ‘just’ a teacher. So, I took the LSAT, did the applications and even went on interviews. The moment of truth came in one interview when an admissions person at a law school near my home asked, ‘so why do you want to be a lawyer?’ I knew the answer I was supposed to say, and I even started to go through my carefully rehearsed presentation. Instead, ‘the great debater’ sat in silence, head down and just mumbled, ‘I don’t know!’ Needless to say, I was rejected from law school. More importantly, I applied to graduate school in Rhetoric and never looked back.”