We asked several CAHNRS Ambassadors, excellent students who love WSU and their college, to name their favorite or most influential professors. And now we’re featuring those nominated educators in this weekly series, which runs through the summer.
Today we’re showcasing Deb Nelson, instructor in the Department of Human Development. Here are her answers to a few questions:
Where are you from?
I grew up in a small rural community in northwest Minnesota called Red Lake Falls.
Where did you go to school?
I earned an associate’s degree at Northland Community College in Thief River Falls, Minn; got my B.A. at North Dakota State University; earned my M.A. at WSU in Child, Consumer, and Family Studies (now HD); and got an Individualized Interdisciplinary Ph.D. from WSU
How did you become interested in your field?
I had always been interested in the “Home Economics” (now Family and Consumer Sciences) classes in junior high and high school. I did a lot of babysitting, liked to sew and cook, and was interested in why people made the consumer decisions that they did. After I got my bachelor’s degree, I went to work for the Minnesota Extension Service, working with the Home Economics and 4-H programs. After moving to Pullman, I realized I was living in a very educated community with not very many job opportunities for someone with a bachelor’s degree in Home Economics, so I went back to school.
Why did you want to become a professor?
I’m not sure that I had really thought about becoming a professor. When I was getting my masters and Ph.D. degrees, I had the opportunity to TA some classes in the department and to help develop/revise some courses. I found that this was something I really enjoyed. After I received my doctorate, I had the opportunity to teach in our department when other faculty were on sabbatical, or an instructor was needed for additional sections of some classes. This meant that I taught a wide variety of courses, which was always a challenge, but also a lot of fun! Eventually my position became permanent (I am an instructor), and I teach the same courses each semester.
Favorite thing about working with college students?
There are lots of “favorites” when working with college students! Every fall, I offer a section of HD 101 Lifespan Development for First Year Focus (incoming first year students). It is really fun to watch the change that happens for these students from the first week of class to the end of the semester. I have numerous opportunities to meet these students in small groups and get to know them better, which is helpful in a class of 100+ students.
Another favorite is helping students to find what they are passionate about regarding their major and future careers. Developing mentoring relationships is a great opportunity to get to know them better, and help them see possibilities!
What advice would you pass along to students?
First, at the beginning of each semester, be sure to introduce yourself to all of your instructors/professors. Become more than just a face in the classroom! Second, go to class and keep up with your reading. I know this is obvious, but it really is important. Third, use all of the resources that are available to you on campus. If you are struggling, talk with the instructor of the class or with your advisor. If we don’t have the answers, we can point you in a direction that will help. Don’t wait until the end of the semester if you are having trouble. Fourth, find at least one activity outside of class to get involved with. Don’t overextend yourself, but find a club or group that interests you. You will meet new people, and develop important networks along the way!