'Maximally Focused': Meet Tanise Cole, Ridley Scholar
Not many teenagers would install a huge whiteboard in their bedroom to triage their academic and extracurricular activities, but Tanise Cole (BSN `26) has always been maximally focused.
Ridley Scholar, daughter of two nurses, high school class vice president, soccer stand-out, and time-management ace, Cole chose nursing early on, in middle school. She graduated in 2022 from Maury High School’s challenging Medical and Health Specialties Program in Norfolk, Virginia, and arrived on Grounds last summer with no intention of slowing her pace.
Cole’s hope, ultimately, is to become an obstetrical/gynecological nurse practitioner and, as an advocate, help people “learn to take care of themselves.”
“It’s a real confidence booster when you’re healthy and you know it. It helps you with other things, too: self-esteem, confidence, being educated. And it’s a form of protection that Black and brown women don’t necessarily have in America’s healthcare system. Knowledge is power.”Tanise Cole, Ridley Scholar (BSN `26)
“It’s a real confidence booster when you’re healthy and you know it,” said Cole, adding, “it helps you with other things, too: self-esteem, confidence, being educated. And it’s a form of protection that Black and brown women don’t necessarily have in America’s healthcare system. Knowledge is power.”
Her decision to study women’s health is at least partly informed by the hard experiences of earlier generations of women in her family, particularly related to maternal health. It’s also flavored by a research project she undertook during high school focused on racial disparities and mortality among mothers and babies in Virginia. Black mothers, she found, are 3.2 times more likely to experience complications and death than white mothers; Native American, Hispanic, and Latina moms are 2.3 times more likely than white women to die in the year after giving birth. They’re also dramatically more likely to lose their child.
"I’d already known I was passionate about educating people about healthcare,” reflected Cole, “and this cemented it for me.”
Still, the first year BSN student admitted she was lukewarm about UVA until she was invited to Charlottesville one weekend for the Ridley Scholarship competition. Unexpectedly, she felt a real sense of connection and community.
“Being around other Black scholars, meeting Black faculty, like Claudrena Harold”—a professor of African American Studies and history—“it was something I knew I wanted to be a part of.”