Psychology Professor Donna Nelson Wins Faculty Mentor Award

May 18, 2023


  • Nelson has been a member of the Winthrop community for more than 20 years.
  • The Faculty Mentor Award recognizes faculty members for their work going above and beyond with students.

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – The Southeastern Psychology Association (SEPA) has recognized Winthrop University faculty member Donna Nelson with the 2023 Faculty Mentor Award for her work going above and beyond with undergraduate students.

Nelson, a professor of psychology, said it was a surprise to hear her name called at SEPA’S annual meeting. She’s grateful for the nomination and thankful for the recognition.

“However, the biggest reward for me lies in seeing the growth and success of my students,” she said. “It is a privilege to be a part of their journey, and they inspire me every day. I also want to note that so many of my colleagues are exceptional mentors and have been wonderful role models for me. I am thankful for the support and encouragement I have received from them.”

In his nomination letter for Nelson, Psychology Department Chair Darren Ritzer talked about Nelson’s relentless commitment to students and their undergraduate research, noting that the research is often not solely a product of class assignments. 

“She is not just teaching students; she is utilizing an apprenticeship model,” he wrote. 

Nelson also strongly encourages students’ active participation in SEPA, navigating them through seeking funding, registering, preparing conference materials and coaching on behavioral and professional expectations. As a result, she helps send 20-30 students to SEPA’s annual conference, giving them invaluable professional experience. 

“As a testament to the quality of the research that Dr. Nelson advises, she and her undergraduates have won multiple research awards at SEPA over the years,” Ritzer continued. “Dr. Nelson does all this with a sensitivity towards diversity, equity and inclusiveness; her student mentees represent varied backgrounds and experiences. …She prioritizes students.”

On the faculty side, Nelson also serves as a role model to newer faculty members. 

About Nelson 

Nelson has been a member of the Winthrop community for more than 20 years. She teaches courses in general psychology, social psychology, positive psychology and theories of personality. She has earned the Outstanding Advisor Award from the College of Arts and Sciences, and is frequently published in refereed journals on social cognition, interpersonal processes and positive emotion. 

She regularly involves undergraduate collaborators in research, with one of those projects landing the Outstanding Professional Paper Award from SEPA, and serves as a McNair Scholars mentor.

She holds a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Maryland – College Park. 

For more information, contact Nicole Chisari, communications coordinator, at 803/323-2403 or

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