C&IS Alumna Debra Nelson Funds Elevate Endowed Scholarship

Mar 30, 2022

C&IS alumna Debra Nelson

College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) alumna Debra Nelson has funded a diversity-focused scholarship as part of the Rising Tide Capital Campaign. Her endowment, the Elevate Endowed Scholarship, will prioritize support for students who demonstrate financial need and, specifically, for female students who have lost their mothers.

After losing her own mother at 14 years old and facing uncertainty as to whether higher education would one day be available to her, Nelson was inspired to help the next generation of college students gain access to higher education and pave the way for their future.

“My mother instilled in me that education opens doors to opportunity. Because of her encouragement, I loved reading and learning, and believed there was something to what she preached,” Nelson said. “I recognize there are many young people who, for social, economic, or other reasons, might question whether college is possible for them. By creating the Elevate Endowed Scholarship, I am honoring my mother’s vision and supporting individuals who, like me, grew up without mothers.”

She also hopes that her endowment will reflect her passion for promoting the values of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in higher education. Nelson cites reading “Grady’s Gift,” the story of a woman in Alabama who could not attend college in the state because of her race, as one of the things that still resonates with her and encourages her to prioritize supporting higher education initiatives.

“I believe the lack of access to public higher education circumvents human potential. When this occurs, there are residual impacts on every dimension in our society. This notion of exclusion propels me to talk about the benefits of diversity, equity and inclusion. Through behaviors and structures, I believe our College can become the example of diversity, equity and inclusion that other institutions model,” Nelson said.

In addition to being an advocate for higher education opportunities, Nelson is also a successful communication professional. She currently serves as the founder and president of Elevate Communications, a professional development and communication services firm that provides training and communication solutions in DEI, leadership and organizational development, and program and performance management.

Nelson currently serves on the C&IS Board of Visitors and is a member of The University of Alabama President’s Cabinet.

Student scholarships are a funding priority for C&IS as part of the Rising Tide Capital Campaign. The Rising Tide Capital Campaign is a University-wide effort to raise a minimum of $1.5 billion in philanthropic support for strategic priorities over a 10-year period. For more information, visit http://risingtide.ua.edu/.