We had the good fortune of connecting with Sierra Nance and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sierra, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
Love is what is most responsible for my success. It is what motivates me, what determines how successful I will be, and what comforts me during the tough times. My family and the people I surround myself with, love and support me unconditionally. They may not always understand what I’m doing or why I’m doing it this way, but they always encourage me and stand beside me. I am a very talented multi-tasker – wearing many hats simultaneously; however, the things that I am most successful at, are the things that I’m passionate about. My original career path entering college was to go to pharmacy school until I discovered research and fell in love. I switched my career trajectory from pharmacist to scientist my junior year, and almost 10 years later, I’m a real scientist. Additionally, I turned my love for HBCU’s into a non-profit organization, HBCU-DAP, Inc. HBCU-DAP, Inc not only allows me to pour back into the institutions that educated me and set me on this path, but it also allows me to help bridge the disparity gaps in higher education and STEM. While the hard work does eventually pay off, there are a lot of rough patches and detours. Sometimes the love and the passion you have for your career and your business doesn’t sustain you when you are ready to give up. That’s when the love of my family and support system comes back in for the rescue. My people will listen to me complain, spend time with me, and comfort me the best way they know how. They love me regardless of my success. I’m never on this journey alone and I always have what I need to be successful, because I have the love of my community, and most importantly God.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Less than 2% of PhDs obtained in the U.S. are held by Black people. In an effort to increase the number of Black PhDs in STEM we provide resources, mentorship, and support for HBCU students on their journey to and through the Doctorate. The idea for HBCU-DAP, Inc started as just an idea to help prepare HBCU students, like myself, for a graduate program at a predominantly white institution. Academically I was prepared; however, there were still some things that made my transition and time in graduate school difficult. It was a culture shock for sure, but even getting into a PhD program was a challenge – it was a culture shock for sure. Once I transitioned into graduate school and passed qualifying exams, I started brainstorming how to support and help other HBCU students interested in doing the same. We created a Virtual Workshop series, educating students on the PhD process, building a strong application, how to get research experience before applying to grad school, how to prepare for an interview, and transitioning from an HBCU to a PWI.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I live outside of Detroit. I don’t do too much moving around in the winter, but during the spring and summer months there’s a lot to do in the area. The first thing we’re doing is eating- rain, sunshine, sleet, or snow. Detroit has some good food. Some of my favorite black-owned spots are Fork in Nigeria, Kuzzo’s Chicken & Waffles, Maty’s African Restaurant, and Brookie’s (they have a corned-beef egg roll that is amazing). Then we would take a day to explore downtown Detroit. I love museums, and between Ann Arbor and Detroit there’s plenty – we could literally do a museum a day. My favorite museum is the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit. If it’s summer, there are rooftop day & night parties at the bars in Greektown. There’s also this black-owned winery on Woodward Ave. called House of Pure Vin where we can do wine-tastings, and on Sundays they have Jazz & Brunch.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are so many people that have helped me get to where I am today, but I’m going to highlight a few key players. I would like to shout out my mama for sure. She literally supports any and everything that I do, always shows up for me, and trusts me to make my own mistakes. Dr. Morris Clarke, who is the sole reason I confidently switched my career path from pharmacist to scientist. He planted the research seed and there are so many wonderful mentors along the way that have and continue to nurture me into an accomplished scientist and businesswoman. Lastly, Tony Larkin & Nnamdi Edokobi who helped me build HBCU-DAP, Inc and develop it from a passion project to an established non-profit organization.
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