ACHE Taps ASU Faculty Member to Serve as a Fellow!

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ASU Faculty Member Appointed as ACHE Research Fellow 

By Kenneth Mullinax/ASU 

The state agency responsible for the overall planning and coordination of public sector higher education in Alabama has appointed an Alabama State University faculty member as one of its prestigious research fellows. ASU alumna Dawna Nelson, an associate professor of Social Work, has been appointed as a Research Fellow for the Alabama Commission of Higher Education (ACHE). 

"I am both humbled and excited to be appointed as an ACHE Research Fellow to study data, make observations, explorations and academic recommendations regarding the state of Alabama's social work education, workforce development and other key factors and areas," Nelson said. "Alabama has a shortage of licensed social workers and to help meet the need, we must conduct research and make assessments so we are doing all we can do to meet our social work needs properly and efficiently." 

Nelson explained that in her new capacity as a "fellow," she will have a number of responsibilities, including conducting research into such varied social work topics as education, professional licensing and employment. The goal for her fellowship is to put forth a comprehensive plan on how to address the social work employee shortage in Alabama. 


The executive director of the Alabama Commission on Higher Education, Dr. Jim Purcell, stated that he is excited to have Nelson as part of his effort to improve the quality of higher education in Alabama. 

"I am delighted that Dr. Nelson accepted our offer to serve as an ACHE Research Fellow," Purcell said. "Her expertise will go a long way in helping our state better understand the dynamics impacting the shortage of social workers in some specialties and in specific locations." 


Nelson said the assessment of data in critical areas will be an important part of the report and recommendations related to addressing the shortage of social workers. She believes examining funding and curricula in areas such as mental health, forensic studies, medical, justice system and child welfare will be much of the focus of the reviews. 

"A critical aspect of this research that I am to conduct between now and September is to ensure that we are meeting the state's critical needs by making sure our students get their academic concentrations in the areas that are in demand and needed statewide because that serves the best interest of both the student and the public," Nelson added. 


The Alabama Commission on Higher Education (ACHE) is a statewide board and agency responsible for the overall planning and coordination of higher education in Alabama, the administration of various student aid programs, and the performance of designated regulatory functions. It seeks to provide reasonable access to quality collegiate and university education for the citizens of Alabama. In meeting this commitment, it facilitates informed decision making, research and policy formulation regarding wise stewardship of resources in response to the needs of students and the goals of institutions.  ACHE also provides a state-level framework for institutions to respond cooperatively and individually to the needs of the citizens. The planning/coordination/designated regulatory functions of ACHE are limited to public sector institutions of higher education. 


The Kansas City Mo. native stated that much of her success in the study of social work and academics is a byproduct of having graduated from Alabama State University in 2006. 

"I was nurtured and fostered by the faculty at Alabama State while I earned my bachelor's degree in Psychology," Nelson said. "ASU offered me an environment where people reached out to me, both academically and friendship-wise, and it made a positive influence in my life that helped propel me to receiving my doctorate." 

"I am where I am today because of the lessons that I learned as a student at ASU," she concluded.  

News media contact: Kenneth Mullinax, 334-229-4104.