Inside The Office with Higher Education Advocate Nadine Duplessy Kearns

Inside The Office with Higher Education Advocate Nadine Duplessy Kearns
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Joy is something we each long for in our lives. One of the ways we find it is by pursuing the things that we are passionate about. Nadine Kearns does this well, through her work as President and Founder of AccessED. We think you will particularly enjoy reading about the possibilities her college experience at Harvard opened up for her, as well as her beautiful words about her grandmother. Enjoy meeting Nadine!

Lydia Kearney Carlis for Eyemagination Imaging | C-Suite Pics

What is your “day job”?

I am President and Founder of AccessED. We work to create customized strategic solutions for schools, community-based organizations, and foundations committed to increasing college access and success for low-income students.

Who were your heroes, or mentors?

The women in my family are my heroes. My grandmother Heureuse Duplessy was a market vendor in rural Haiti. She became the main breadwinner when her husband was injured and unable to continue working as a carpenter. She was a mother to eight children, and was proudest that she made it possible for all of them to graduate high school, which was remarkable for these times in Haiti. She moved to the United States and was proud that her many grandkids graduated from college. The fact that she did not go to school and could not read and write really speaks to how remarkably smart she was. We have a saying in Haiti: “analfabet pa bête” which means “illiteracy is not unintelligence”.

I also have several mentors and sponsors. Women need to have both and know how to leverage their engagement, counsel, and power. Here’s an example: a mentor helps you prepare for the interview while a sponsor picks up the phone and tells the senior person on the hiring team “hire her”.

When did you decide that you would serve in education, that this would be your journey?

Attending college, Harvard in particular, was a transformative experience for me. For someone who comes from a low-income family, this was the first time I felt that I really could do anything, go anywhere, and live the life that I wanted to live. As a result, I work in education to help other students like me dream big about college and the life they can make for themselves. About 10 years ago, I made the decision to leave working in international development in order to work in a realm that would help create educational and life opportunities for low-income students.

If you weren’t advocating for higher education access, what would life look like?

I would be an editor or a food critic. I am a voracious reader and eater!

If you had it all to do over again, would you do anything differently?

I would travel more while I was in college.

What do you do for you that brings you absolute joy or peace?

I read like my sanity depends on it. I am never without a book that I am in the middle of reading or one that I have just finished reading.

What would you like your epitaph to be?

I would choose these words: “Here lies Nadine who loved God, life, family, friends, food, and books.”

If you only had one word, what is it that you want people to remember about you?

In one word, I would like it to be “joy”.

Is there anything else you wish I’d asked you? How can readers engage with your work?

No! Thank you!

If you are looking for a strategic partner who can help you create solutions to increase the number of low-income students who will walk across the college graduation stage into opportunities bigger than they could imagine, email me at

Inside The Office is a monthly blog that features female executive, entrepreneurial and creative leaders from diverse industries sharing wisdom and insight from their personal and professional journeys.

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