Faculty Picture

Steven Nelson

Associate Professor and LDPS Program Coordinator

Ball Hall, 123
Office Hours
By appointment

About Dr. Nelson 

Steven L. Nelson is associate professor of leadership and policy studies in the Department of Leadership. He also serves as program coordinator for the educational leadership and policy studies doctoral program, the Pre K-12 school administration and supervision masters program (principal licensure), as well as the Pre K-12 educational leadership graduate certificate program (alternate principal licensure for individuals who already hold a masters degree). Prior to his current appointment, Dr. Nelson served on the faculty of the University of New Orleans. He has taught and led in charter schools, traditional public schools, and private schools in the New Orleans area. He also served as the first education advocate at the Southern Poverty Law Center's School-to-Prison Pipeline Project in New Orleans where he worked on charter school law and policy, special education access and equity, and juvenile justice issues.

Dr. Nelson's research and teaching interests are at the intersection of education law, education policy, and the politics of education. In particular, his research and teaching consider how education reforms laws, policies, and political dynamics. He also researches how education advances, impedes, or regresses efforts at achieving educational equity for Black students in urban settings. Dr. Nelson considers himself a Critical Race Theorists.

His research has been published in various media including law reviews, education journals, and edited books. Dr. Nelson's work has been covered in the Washington Post and on national blogs, such as Cloaking Inequity. He maintains active memberships in the American Educational Research Association, the Critical Race Studies in Education Association, the Education Law Association, and the Law & Society Association. He has served as an officer in aforementioned organizations and frequently presents scholarly works and/or professional developments at international and national conferences and research symposia.

Dr. Nelson currently serves as a non-resident faculty fellow for the Fordham University Urban Law Center. He also holds editorial board appointments for journals such as Urban Education and Educational Researcher. At the University of Memphis, Dr. Nelson serves as an administrative hearing officer and a Title IX sexual assault hearing officer. Additionally, he is the Department of Leadership's faculty senate representative.


  • Ph.D. Education Leadership, Pennsylvania State University
  • M.A.T. Secondary Education (Social Studies), Xavier University of Louisiana
  • J.D. University of Iowa
  • B.A. Political Science, Louisiana State University

Selected Publications

  • Anthony, R. M., & Nelson, S. L. (forthcoming). When language matters: How states define equity under Race to the Top Grant Applications and Every Student Succeeds Act Implementation Plans. University of Memphis Law Review.
  • Nelson, S. L. (2020). Towards a Transnational Critical Race Theory: Articulating Critical Race Third World Approaches to Education Policy. William & Mary Journal of Race, Gender, and Social Justice, 26(2), 303 – 334.
  • Nelson, S. L., & Williams, R. O. (2019). From slave codes to educational racism: Urban education policy in the United States as the dispossession, containment, dehumanization, and disenfranchisement of Black peoples. Journal of Law in Society, 19(1/2), 82 – 120.
  • Nelson, S. L. (2019). Special education, overrepresentation, and end-running education federalism: Theorizing towards a federally protected right to education for Black students. Loyola University Public Interest Law Journal, 20, 205 – 240.
  • McLain, A. J., & Nelson, S. L. (2019). Reframing the Affirmative Action debate beyond arguments for diversity and Interest Convergence. Barry University Law Review, 26(2), 83 – 111.