Meet Jayde Nelson, Director of Civic Engagement

Nelson’s role, as Georgia Tech's director of Civic Engagement, is to help students understand that what they’re doing in the classroom has an impact on what is happening outside of it.

Jayde Nelson is director of Civic Engagement in the Center for Student Engagement, which is part of the Division of Student Engagement and Well-Being. Before coming to Tech in 2022, she worked in residence life at the University of Georgia for four years.

“I came here to expand my resources and take that next step in my career,” she said. “There has been nothing better than understanding the students and meeting their needs. I’ve been excited to do the work that I’ve been doing for the last five months.”

Nelson’s role is to help students understand that what they’re doing in the classroom has an impact on what is happening outside of it.

“I’m here to help bridge that gap,” she said. “It’s great to say to students, ‘This net that you’ve 3D-printed can be used to collect debris in lakes and streams.’ I see them have lightbulb moments when they see an immediate connection between what they’re doing as an engineering or science major and what is needed by nonprofits.”

Last month Nelson coordinated Georgia Tech’s MLK Day of Service, with 120 students participating in five off-campus projects and two on-campus projects. Now she’s working on two Alternative Service Break trips — to New Orleans and the Dominican Republic.

In New Orleans, students will work with a community partner, Merry Green Marvel, on projects addressing environmental issues in a region that is on the front lines of climate change. Students also will have opportunities to participate in fun activities such as kayaking and a New Orleans cooking class. 

In the Dominican Republic, students will collaborate with 7 Elements, a community partner, to build bottle houses in La Colonia. The houses have a cement foundation and a wooden frame, and the insulation is made of recycled plastic bottles to both reuse waste and protect homeowners during extreme temperatures. Students will also get to explore areas near the work sites and learn about common problems facing the community.

“We are preparing the students with details about the locations so they will know what to expect,” Nelson said. “We have student leaders as well as advisors leading the trips, and we’re super excited about the Alternative Service Break projects.”

Away From Work

Nelson’s hobbies include adding mugs to her collection of more than 100 and exploring Georgia’s small-town downtowns.  

“I am a history nerd, so I like to stop and talk to the local residents to learn the town’s history,” she said. “I also like a good festival and a good concert.”

Nelson, who has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Francis Marion University in South Carolina and a master’s in student affairs and higher education from Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas, is continuing her education at Georgia Southern University. She is pursuing an Ed.D. in educational leadership with an emphasis in higher education, anticipating earning her degree in 2025.

“Being in this program is broadening the way that I think because my cohort is half higher education and half P-12,” she said. “I’m gaining an understanding of what students are like before they come to college.”

Nelson originally wanted to be a physician, but ended up on a different path.  

“I still want to do something in the medical field, so maybe down the line I would like to work at a medical university in student affairs,” she said. “I'm also looking at access to college, how students in rural Georgia are coming to Tech, and how admissions counselors are really guiding the work of getting those students to attend technology schools. That has been my trajectory thus far.”

Between working and studying, Nelson tries to catch up on her sleep.  

“I take a mean nap,” she said. “I feel like I took naptime for granted in kindergarten. I was the student who wanted to get ‘extra’ recess time while everybody else was napping.”  

Nelson also enjoys spending time with her 4-year-old nephew.

“He’s my little chicken nugget and I absolutely love him,” she said. “He’ll be 5 this year and he’s going to kindergarten. I don't know where the time went, but I know I’m going to be right next to him, walking him into his classroom. I need that experience.”

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