The Vision Sits Down With Professor Nakia Rimmer

By Roberta Nin Feliz


The Vision: If you had to tell people what Rimmer was about, outside of Penn, how would you describe yourself?


Rimmer: [I’m a] a father, a good friend, someone who cares, someone who has gone through a lot and overcome and can give advice. Someone who is honest and loves God and fears God.


The Vision: It’s interesting that you’re very selfless when it comes to students. Why do you decide to help students who aren’t taking your classes?


Rimmer: I was in their position and I didn’t have anyone to help me. And it was lonely. [I was at] a predominantly white institution, a state school in. I didn’t have anyone to ask questions to. People in my class didn’t know anything either. I don’t want anyone to have to go through what I went through and to struggle to get through and make it. I wish I had a professor that did what I do.


The Vision: Given that you do so much, how do you find the motivation to do what you do despite not having the title of Professor?


Rimmer: I’m a hybrid. I have an administrative position and I teach two classes a semester. I don’t have a PhD but I don’t think that’s lacking in my life. I was in the PhD program twice and I stopped at the Masters because I realized it’s not for me. I do what I do because I see it as a need and I see that I can help. I make my materials available to other students who aren’t my own because I’ve had students wait until senior year to take my classes and I want students to have the resources they need. This drove me to start a company. Why can’t other students at other universities have my stuff also?


The Vision: You’re known for waking people up during class and calling them out. What’s up with that?


Rimmer: That was me. I wish someone would have done it for me. I used to fall asleep in class and then I would struggle on the exams. My professors didn’t care and they let me do it. I didn’t realize how much money I was wasting. I’m now deep in debt and realizing that I spent so much money on my material I slept through. It doesn’t make sense. However, I’ve learned not to do it so much because people have sleeping disorders and things like that.


The Vision: You’ve battled with Luekemia before. How do you think that’s changed your perspective on life?


Rimmer: I was living fast and free and it woke me up. It let me see that you should take your health and relationships seriously. You’re not promised tomorrow. If I hadn’t caught it as early, it would have gotten worse — this was in 2009. [My] marriage wasn’t working really well and it woke me up that I should try to make it work out. It didn’t work out but I gave it my all. Now I just try to live for my kids and everything I do, I do for them. There are 0 traces of Leukemia left but now I see more things that I didn’t see before. I’ve learned that we should be present, be awake, be there for your student and be selfless. Make the most of your time here while you’re here.


The Vision: You recently got some exciting news about your father. Can we talk about that a little bit?


Rimmer: I was 8-years-old and my mom and dad divorced when I was younger. I didn’t know him [my dad] too well and he was a drug dealer and there was a drug deal gone bad. He got locked up for murder. The manner of the crime was so much – deadly force—too many shots, in the wrong kinds of places. They threw the book at him and gave him 25 to life. In the 80s, 25 to life meant life. He tried to say he didn’t do it for a while but he realized that the best thing to do is to be a model prisoner. Parole would come up and he would get denied. And then, I finally realized that I should really make an effort to make a relationship with him. I had kids now. When I was a kid, I could lie and say my dad died. But now my kids have to know what happened to their granddad.


I had a niece that went through the same thing I went through and here I am trying to encourage her to visit her dad and I’m a hypocrite because I’m not doing it with my dad. This was 2011. I went to go see him and it was the best decision I made in a long time, to start that relationship. Every time I go back home, I visit him and so do my kids.


Then, I got a chance to be a part of the whole parole thing. [In the past] he would tell me to write a letter and I wouldn’t do it or respond to his calls, but now I got some help on how to write a good letter. Just this past January, it was the final round [of his parole hearing]. And I had to go speak on his behalf. I told them a little bit about myself, told them the same story I’m telling you now and they were impressed. I let them know that he was still looking out for me and trying to be a part of my life. There were many times I could have been where he was but I listened to [his advice] to stay away from those things.


There was a one-hour delay and they came back in and said the majority of the board deemed him suitable for release. This was pretty much his last chance. He spent half of his life in there. He’s in his 60s now. On July 1st, he’s going to be released. He’ll be 70. It’s a wonderful thing,


The Vision: What’s next for you and your dad?


Rimmer: Being able to do father-son stuff that we never did, things I do with my kids now, travel. Just talking about what really was going on when he was in there and what really happened that day [of the incident he was convicted for]. When we visit him, we got eyes in the sky and we got recording so we couldn’t really talk. So I want him to let me know what really happened. I want to help him get on his feet and get a job, get a car, get around. He was the OG in the prison, the guy that others would come talk to. He educated himself while he was in there. He got degrees and certificates while he was in there so he’ll be able to get a job.


The Vision: It seems like you’re really happy and in good place. Is there anything that’s next for you?


Rimmer: I think things happen the way they do when they do, for a reason and I’m not lacking or wanting anything. I’m happy with the way things are for me. I always thought I needed a relationship but I realize now that I need to be there for my kids, be there for my family, be there for my job. I’m happy. I always thought I would get my happiness by making other people happy but I realized my happiness has to come for myself first. I’m happy as I am, single dad, two kids, co-parenting with the mom and that’s ok.

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