Black at Villanova: Reflections on Forty Years

Claire Stalder Staff Writer

On Thursday Oct. 15, the University’s Africana Studies Program held a virtual conversation with professors’ reflections on being Black at Villanova over the past 40 years. 

Professor Danielle Gadson moderated the discussion between Professor Terry Nance and Professor Maghan Keita, two professors who knew each other as children in Cleveland and found themselves working together at the University over the past 40 years. 

The conversation began with both faculty speaking to their own experiences with racism on and around campus. Nance recalled when she first began working at the University, people assumed she was traveling from the city to clean houses on the Main Line. Keita told a story of a faculty member telling him that his discussion on activism in South Africa would have prevented his hiring at the University had it been a professional talk rather than a casual one. 

As they moved into conversations on the social climate of the school when they first started, both saw their students having similar experiences. Nance explained that students of color lived in isolation, specifically due to socioeconomic status, and Keita discussed the gap between the majority Irish Catholic students and those who weren’t “Catholic enough.” 

Seeing these challenges made them more dedicated to changing the social climate. Among their work with the school, Nance worked with the Center for Intercultural Affairs and helped head the development of creating a study space for all of the students. Keita explained the development of Global Interdisciplinary Studies that recognized those students’ work at levels equal and above honors students. Within the program, students’ achievements were awarded with everything from Rhodes to Fulbright Scholarships. 

Despite the challenges they have seen over time, Keita and Nance have remained dedicated to their students over the years. In short, Keita and Nance saw themselves as two professors “trying to set the world right, one step at a time.”