Professor of Legal Studies, Risk Management
Nancy Mansfield knew very early on that she was a teacher at heart. With her prestigious academic record and professional experience, she’s a bright spot among an award-winning faculty.
When Nancy Mansfield graduated from college, she did not know what she wanted to do. She applied to law school at the University of Georgia by default and became one of 40 women in her class of 200 students. “We really were trailblazers in law school,” she said.
Nancy enjoyed law school but was still unsure if she wanted to practice law, so when she was offered a graduate research assistant position in the Terry College of Business during her third year, she jumped at the opportunity. There she was mentored by Professor Lee Reed, who first encouraged her to consider teaching. “I remember he said to me, ‘being a professor is a very privileged life,’ and I’ve repeated that often,” she said.
After a three-year stint at Georgia Southern University, she accepted a position at Georgia State where she became one of the first women in her department. Today, Nancy fills numerous positions for Georgia State both as professor within the Risk Management and Insurance Department and as the faculty advisor to scholars within the Honors College. “I’m guessing I’m one of the few people at Robinson who has had the same job for 33 years,” she said.
A Family Approach
Nancy’s story begins in Atlanta where she grew up as the oldest of five children. Surrounded by supportive siblings and parents who were deeply engaged in their children’s lives, she learned the value of education and giving back to the local community. Today, she and her siblings live within two miles of each other.
Although they both grew up in the city, it was not until she moved back to Atlanta after college, graduate school and working that she met her husband on a blind date at a Braves game. “We share the same values. He’s very supportive of my career. He’s a good listener. He used to say to me, ‘you live out loud every day,’ and he lets me,” she said. “He’s really my anchor.”
Together they have two grown children, Ellis and Margaret, and Nancy tears up when she talks about them. “Life is all about balancing, but being a mother, a good partner and having a career that you love is the best of all worlds,” she said.
An International Perspective
Nancy brings the same love of education her family taught her into the classroom every day and has enjoyed working within the Robinson College. “There are a lot of resources here. That makes a difference. There are great initiatives that happen in the College of Business,” she said, and she credits her “forward thinking, innovative colleagues” for making her career such a memorable experience.
Over her thirty years at Robinson, she has witnessed first-hand the changes within Georgia State, including the phenomenal growth in the footprint of the university. “I was younger than all of my students when I started teaching,” she said, “They were all working, so I was teaching at 7:30 in the morning or ten at night.” When the university built dorms, things started to change – “it has been transformative to have students on campus full-time.”
Even Nancy’s office has relocated multiple times as the campus has expanded. “It’s a friendly campus. There are no boundaries – it’s really one and the same with the city,” she said.
One aspect Nancy has enjoyed most over her career is the opportunity for international travel, and she says working at Georgia State has given her the chance to “study abroad.” A particularly meaningful trip for Nancy was to Dubai and Jordan with Professor Joan Gabel: “That kind of travel has opened my eyes as well as my ability to understand business in other parts of the world, cultures, and the students here at Georgia State,” she said.
“There’s a twinkle in my eye when I think about travel. A message I pass on to my students is that they should all seize the opportunity to study abroad.”
Making a Life
For Nancy, it is important that her students make the most of the experience at Georgia State. “There’s a huge responsibility that comes with being a professor,” she said. “I want to pass on a love of learning and a real passion about education.” Most importantly, she wants them to know that they too can make a difference.
“For anyone, what you care about is what you’re going to put your intellectual energy into. There’s a difference between making a living and making a life. For all of us, you have to make your living and that’s hard work. The magic is when making a living is making a life,” she said.
“I talk to students about finding their voice, taking their story and charting what they want to do for their future.”
As for Nancy’s future, it’s right here at Georgia State. “Atlanta is it for me,” she said. “I can’t wait to come to Georgia State every day, and that makes a big difference. It makes work fun. I’m lucky – I have the best job in the world.”