Shawn Nelson - Alumni Profile
Outgoing alumni president says innovation key to engaging students The alumni are the strength of our degree. The more we grow, the more prestigious our degrees become.
Fall 2017 | By Leila Tatum & Danielle Moore
Anyone that has ever worked with Shawn Nelson ’04 will tell you her compassionate nature and love for Clayton State has helped increase alumni giving and engagement for years. Her go-getter attitude contributed to her appointment as president of the Clayton State Alumni Association board twice.
Currently, Nelson works as the Senior Branch Manager for Liberty Mutual Insurance and has been active on the Clayton State Alumni Association board for the last 12 years.
This is Nelson’s final term as president, but she is very optimistic about the future of the board and the next generation of Lakers charged with carrying the torch.
We caught up with Nelson to share what it was like for her as a student at her beloved alma mater, her experience serving on the alumni board of advisors and her advice to future alumni leaders.
“The alumni are the strength of our degree. The more we grow, the more prestigious our degrees become.”
Clayton State University: What drew you to attend Clayton State?
Shawn Nelson: When I was a Senior in high school, there was a program where you could finish your high school diploma by taking college level classes (now called the Move On When Ready program). I started researching colleges. I chose Clayton State because it was close to home, had small classes and a safe campus. I stayed at Clayton State after high school because I loved the small classes and personal attention that the professors provided. I always appreciated the care and concern that the advisors showed as well as the flexibility for class days/times/online.
CSU: What was the campus environment and culture like when you attended?
SN: When I first attended Clayton State, it was a very small school. It was still called Clayton College and State University. There wasn’t a lot of focus on campus activities as the majority of students were non-traditional. I took a few years off before finishing my degree. When I returned, I was able to see the quick growth that Clayton State experienced. There were more on-campus activities and more emphasis on getting students involved. Despite this growth, the professors continued to show personal attention to students. It has always been a caring campus that felt like family.
CSU: Did you have a favorite professor?
SN: Dr. Michael Deis is amazing. He always took a personal interest in me and my family, asking about them by name. I remember a few times when I had to bring my young daughter to one of his classes. He always enjoyed seeing her and was very sweet to her. Dr. Deis was very passionate about getting business students involved in the Society for the Advancement of Management (SAM). He even convinced me to participate in the SAM competition. It was one of my best experiences in college. We had a two-person team that went all the way to number one. Dr. Deis was like a proud parent that day. I really enjoyed getting to know him and his wife on that trip.
CSU: You’ve been connected to and giving back to the school ever since you graduated 13 years ago. Why? What keeps you coming back?
SN: Clayton State gave me a great education. I appreciated the personal attention that many of my professors gave to their students. I feel it’s important for everyone to know how special Clayton State really is. It’s a great education with a family feel.
CSU: Tell me about your experience serving on the alumni board of advisors
SN: I’ve been involved with the Alumni board since 2005. I’ve met and worked with a lot of great people during that time. We’ve done a lot over the years. One of my favorite memories is when we did a pirate float for the Homecoming parade. Our alumni director at the time, Gid Rowell, dressed up as a Pirate. It was great! I’ve always loved the events where we get a chance to interact with other alumni (like C squared). Things have changed a lot over the years. One of the best changes has been having a dedicated Alumni Director. This has taken a huge burden off of the Alumni board in terms of coordinating events and programming. Now the Alumni board can focus on serving in an advisory capacity which reduces the time commitment needed to stay involved.
CSU: Where do you think the association will be in 10 years? What do you hope will happen?
SN: I hope to see Clayton State alumni increase participation in on-campus events, mentoring, and supporting Clayton State. The alumni are the strength of our degree. The more we grow, the more prestigious our degrees become.
CSU: As you wrap up your final term as president, what is the one thing you are most proud of?
SN: As the campus transitions from non-traditional to becoming more traditional, I’m proud that our young alumni are getting more involved. [The Young Alumni Council] is so involved, taking the lead in Homecoming for the last two years. In addition, they are more involved in the community, taking on Habitat for Humanity projects around Homecoming each year. I’m excited to see this group growing and becoming more involved.
CSU: What piece of advice do you have for future alumni leaders?
SN: I think it’s important to be flexible to change. As the world around us changes, things will change with how we communicate with our alumni, how we engage alumni, and what events alumni will attend. Since the main focus of alumni relations is to engage its members, we have to always be ready to try out new, innovative things. Be willing to suggest creative ideas. Most importantly, be proud of Clayton State and your degree. Promote Laker pride on campus with students (future alumni) and in the community. Take the lead in giving, whether it’s volunteering or monetarily.