NJIT Provost Priscilla P. Nelson, of West Orange, received the Kenneth R. Roe Award from the American Association of Engineering Societies on May 5th for promoting unity among engineering societies. She accomplished this goal through her current work at NJIT (www.njit.edu) coupled with earlier leadership positions at the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Nelson arrived at NJIT in 2005 after spending more than a decade at NSF. She is nationally and internationally recognized for her expertise in geological and rock engineering and underground construction with 15-plus years of teaching experience and more than 120 technical and scientific publications to her credit. Her accolades include being elected Distinguished Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Eminent Engineer of Tau Beta Pi, and she has received four awards for collaborative integration from the NSF.
Well known as a catalyst for, and a champion of, new ideas, Nelson has long been active in fomenting dialog among professional and technical societies. Her interest in interdisciplinary science and engineering is what led her to NJIT -- she especially enjoys NJIT’s diverse and inclusive community, and the opportunity to provide leadership and vision for the future at a university where learning, research, and engagement are holistically integrated into all experiences.
Not for a second does Nelson see technologically-focused institutions as having a narrow focus. “NJIT offers many opportunities to stretch and encompass areas beyond engineering, architecture or science,” she says. “Opportunities abound for intersections with the humanities, social sciences, and economics.”
Speaking about experiences that prepared her for the multi-faceted position at NJIT, Nelson notes that NJIT faculty work hard to create an ever more stimulating learning environment inside and outside of class. “Part of becoming a better educator is to listen to students and realize that they are your clients. There is a lot of interest in fostering good teaching at the university level than there was 20 years ago, and that’s very exciting.”
Nelson also enjoys being a Mole. Yes, a Mole. Ever since she was introduced as a graduate student to tunnel-boring machines, she has always liked interacting with contractors who specialize in heavy construction and engineers who build underground. “They’re a very special group, and about ten years ago I was voted a ‘Mole,’ a member of an organization focused on this work,” she says. “Dealing with the people who do the work is special,” she said. “It allows me space to think outside my box, which I like.”
Prior to coming to NSF, Nelson served on the faculty in civil engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, rising from assistant through full professor ranks. She has earned master's degrees in both geology (Indiana University) and structural engineering (University of Oklahoma). In 1983, she received her doctorate in geotechnical engineering from Cornell University. For more information about Nelson see http://www.njit.edu/publicinfo/newsroom/nelsonpriscilla_bio.php.