Looking Back and Paying It Forward

Regena F. Nelson

Regena Nelson (Ph.D. 1997) is living her dream. She always wanted to be a full-time graduate student—to spend her time studying all the fields she loved. Now with more than 20 years of research, consulting, and teaching, Nelson is a professor and chair of the Department of Teaching, Learning, and Educational Studies at Western Michigan University. “I was born to be a college professor,” she says.

Nelson has a number of professional accolades and publications to her name, including her contributions to Early Childhood Research Quarterly, Journal of Research on Childhood Education, Early Childhood Education Journal, Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, and Multicultural Perspectives. But her work seems to have a similar goal to her philanthropy—to help others shape their futures around their own dreams. She has been giving faithfully to the Rackham Impact and Support Funds since the 90s, a true illustration of what makes the Rackham community as strong as it is. “I give to Rackham to ensure that other graduate students of color will be able to fulfill their educational goals at the University of Michigan.”

The interdisciplinary nature of her experience in the Combined Program in Education and Psychology aligned closely with her career goals and prepared her to become a professor in both developmental and educational psychology. “I use what I learned in my classes and research everyday as a professor in early childhood education,” she says. Nelson received a four-year fellowship from Rackham that she says was outstanding. “It allowed me to have time to volunteer in the on-campus preschool program to develop my teaching skills and conduct research studies in kindergarten classrooms in Flint to improve educational assessments.”

To our loyal donors who look back on their own experience as a reason to pay it forward, thank you for supporting graduate education at U-M.

Regena F. Nelson