neslon_founderWhen I arrived at the University in 1989, I was hired as the Assistant Dean of Students for Retention Services. The position was charged with the responsibility of providing interventions and services for African-American and Hispanic students that would enhance their probability of succeeding at the University from initial enrollment through graduation. Since my dissertation research was in this area, I knew the importance of a support system, especially to these student sub-groups, on a predominately white campus. Additionally, I knew the value of the support system being people on campus with the same cultural identity. For African-American students that meant having African-American faculty and staff to fill this role.

From a personal perspective, moving to Austin meant making new transitions and finding the things I needed to survive. Of significant importance were two of my cultural needs: 1. A Missionary Baptist Church; and 2. A beautician who knew how to care for my kind of hair. I previously had the inconvenience of having to drive more than 30 miles to fulfill both and knew firsthand that these kinds of experiences do not endear one to one’s environment. Therefore, I had great expectations about Austin. After all it was a large, metropolitan area that was nationally known as a progressive city and one of the best cities in America in which to live. Besides, on the smaller college campus where I worked prior to relocating, I was a member of a very active Black Faculty/Staff association. Certainly, “The University” was far more organized and had a progressive organization on its campus.

My current position at The University is Associate Vice President in the Division of Diversity & Community Engagement. My educational background includes:

  • Bachelor of Arts – Grambling College
  • Master of Arts – Ball State University
  • Educational Specialist – Louisiana State University
  • Doctorate – Northern Illinois University

I am a musician at Mt. Olive M.B.C. as well as a deaconess. My civic groups include Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., in which I hold local and regional offices, and am a Life Member. Also, I am the UT Advisor for Mu Upsilon Undergraduate Chapter (received the 2005 best chapter in the Southwest Region award). I am a member of the Links, Inc. I mentor two groups of girls, one high school group and one elementary school group. I am married to Elridge Nelson. We have two sons and one grandson.

I am so pleased that the organization still exists. The current officers have my best wishes and support as they move forward to higher heights and goals. Hopefully, the group will continue to grow and be relevant to the needs of its membership…still advocating progress!