Dr. Princess Nash ’07 leads a life of equal parts adventure and academic rigor. She is a planner who welcomes the diversity of the world’s experiences and executes her goals like a visionary. Last year, Dr. Nash finished her Ph.D. in public health at the University of Alabama while working for the Department of Veterans Affairs. She recently travelled to Tahiti, the 43rd country in which she has set foot.

Nash grew up spending time between her grandmother’s farm in White Lily, Ky., and London, Ky., after her mother returned from the military. Her academic journey began when Berea’s Educational Talent Search Program for Appalachian Youth recognized her caliber in sixth grade. She went on to participate in the Carter G. Woodson Scholarship program and the Upward Bound program, which prepared her for college.

“The public school system didn’t necessarily give me a leg up, if you will,” Nash said of growing up in rural southeastern Kentucky. “The additional resources from Berea really helped prepare me for my future career.”

Photo of Dr. Princess Nash '07 in her graduate cap and gown
Dr. Princess Nash earned her doctorate degree from the University of Alabama in 2022.

Inspired by her mother’s post-military career as a teacher, Nash pursued a degree in early childhood education. She spent her time at Berea volunteering and working at the Boyd and Gaynell Fowler Child Development Lab. She worked as a resident assistant and then a hall coordinator as a part of her labor experience.

However, it was after she started her student-teaching experience at Berea Community School that she realized she needed to find a different career path.

“Thankfully, Berea teaches you to outgrow it and seek the world beyond,” Nash said. When she got on a plane for the first time and left the country, she discovered what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. She spent a semester abroad in Denmark with the Kentucky Institute for International Studies (KIIS) program and studied their educational system, and in the summer of her senior year, she spent time in Mexico learning Spanish and indulging her appetite for travel. Berea’s support and encouragement for students to travel abroad facilitated Nash’s first-time travel experiences and jumpstarted a love for travel.

“The travel bug bit me hard,” Nash said. “It was a truly immersive experience that I really enjoyed. [It was a] pivotal point to me thinking about a different career path that involved more travel and more experiences across the globe, and seeing how I can use the skills that I have gained already to enhance my future career choices.”

After graduating from Berea, she started her master’s degree focused on maternal and child health in the public health sector at the University of Alabama in Birmingham. She completed her practicum experience working for the Aga Khan Health Services in Mombasa, Kenya.

After graduate school, she joined the Peace Corps, a U.S. government program that trains volunteers to provide development assistance to developing countries and remote communities. She was stationed in Guyana, South America. She grew to love the country and developed long-lasting relationships with people in the two years she served there.

After her service, Nash toured the entire United States with a friend she met in Guyana. During the trip she interviewed for a position at the Department of Veterans Affairs from a hotel room in Florida over Skype. She landed the job, which involved even more travel. While working full time, she started her doctoral degree at the University of Alabama, exploring the healthcare experiences and related outcomes of military servicewomen, inspired by her mother’s military service.

Six years ago, she started her own consulting business, Pioneer Consulting, which runs a qualitative data arm for research studies. “I do focus groups; I do one-on-one individual interviews; I transcribe interviews for people,” Nash explained. “I do thematic coding and create analytic reports for research studies.”

Group of women in the roller derby
Princess Nash (front) entertains crowds as she competes in the Druid City Derby League.

Currently living in Tuscaloosa, Ala., she spends her leisure time as a member of the Druid City Derby league, a rollerskating contact sport known for its athleticism as well as theatrics. Here, the skills she developed at Berea came to her aid in surprising ways.

“Berea is where I got introduced to grant writing and applying for federal funding,” Nash said. “And that is a skill that has been very beneficial throughout my entire career. Even with the roller derby, I’ve written two grants for the derby that have been fully funded. And then my dissertation—I wrote a grant, and that was my first federal principal investigator funding for research that was awarded to me.”

She had applied for funding from sources like the European Union to help the communities she had served in Mombasa and Guyana.

Princess Nash in her Roller Derby uniform and a crown on her head
Princess Nash has participated in the Druid City Roller Derby for several years.

People often tell Nash that she leads an “interesting” life. Reflecting on the variety of things to which she commits her time, Nash admits that managing her time and choosing how to invest her time is challenging.

“[In graduate school], some semesters, I would work as a teaching assistant,” she explained. “And then, I was doing my consulting work and taking my classes. [The] past few years have been very chaotic and hectic. But Berea did prepare me for that. At Berea, you are doing extracurricular activities and clubs alongside academics and labor. It helped me to learn how to manage my time to get the most out of it.”

Despite her busy schedule, Nash finds time to nurture the connections with people who helped her grow. During her first year living in Pearsons Residence Hall, she built close relationships with the collegium members in residence, Dr. Dwayne Mack and Dr. Felicia Mack.

“In the decade-plus since I left Berea,” Nash said, “I visit them every time I go back to Kentucky, and both of them have just been instrumental in showing me what life could be like and always reminded me to keep my options open and go into everything with an open heart and open mind.”

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