Sherri Rose: My background is not one I've seen represented frequently among faculty. I grew up in a violent, unstable, low-income home. Sometimes I’d go to bed hungry and wouldn't have food to take to school. We were evicted twice during my childhood; the first time, many of our belongings were still in the house. The locks were changed and there was a big neon sticker across the door when I came home from school. It was heartbreaking.
Eventually, there were questions from teachers about why I wore long sleeves and pants even when the weather was hot. I finally gathered the courage to report the child abuse I was experiencing to a teacher. I showed her my bruises. She asked me to write everything down. I did. More than once. Nothing ever happened. No one ever saved me. I share this as a call to action. We absolutely cannot let our children down like that. Please act.
Through all of this, education was my salvation. I loved school and associated the idea of college with stable employment. At a bookstore, I found a book that described good colleges for various majors. (This was before college information was easily found online!) I couldn’t afford to buy the book, so I wrote down about a dozen schools that were strong in science on a scrap of paper I had in my pocket. Later, I pared down the list to five because applications were so expensive. Fee waivers weren’t guaranteed, and some were by reimbursement. I did not apply to many of the top places because I needed each $50–80 to be a solid bet. While far from perfect, I’m glad that the fee waiver process has improved by leaps and bounds since then.
I never imagined any of what I have now was possible. I didn’t even know what being a professor meant. I just would dream of not being scared, hungry, and poor one day. It still takes my breath away to see the name of a prestigious university next to my name.
A number of my colleagues and trainees know that I love Star Trek: The Next Generation. I have so few happy memories of my childhood beyond watching Star Trek: The Next Generation. The idea that there was a future without poverty and war sounded amazing to me, and it still does.