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ImageWhat’s the Big Idea?
G. Kent Nelson
Senior Lecturer, Milgard School of Business, UW Tacoma
G. Kent Nelson, ’89, ’94, doesn’t care if his students become experts in the subjects he teaches. He’d rather they master a few broad principles for better living.

“The most important thing for me, as an instructor, is to emphasize whole-person learning,” he says. “I want to help my students become better human beings. If I do that, they’ll be able to go out into the business world, pursue whatever they choose and be successful.”

Nelson honed his skills as an instructor in graduate school at the UW, where he earned his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in speech communication. Nelson teaches leadership and business communication courses in the management concentration at UWT’s Milgard School of Business.

In the classroom, Nelson prefers to teach big ideas, an approach he believes helps students understand themselves and the world around them and will ultimately make them better businesspeople.

“Given the choice between my students leaving my class with acute understanding of the course’s particular subject matter, or leaving my class as better human beings who are motivated to contribute to the well-being of others and the greater good, I will always choose the latter,” he says.

His class assignments reflect his goals. In his Dynamics of Leadership class, Nelson asks each student to develop a model for their own pursuit of “personal mastery,” and a plan to improve current and ongoing leadership. In his Interpersonal Skills course, student assignments generate awareness of personal communication patterns that can lead to improvement in personal relationships as well as business ones.

Nelson enjoys interactive classroom discussions and recently started to use new technology in a quest to keep students engaged. In addition to providing students with written feedback on their work, he records oral feedback on a digital audio recorder and e-mails it to his students. It’s a method that allows him to provide tailored, personal feedback with all the nuances associated with a human voice.

Nelson also serves as an instructional coach for other UW Tacoma faculty. He conducts workshops on teaching and learning and observes classes in order to help other faculty members sharpen their teaching skills.

“As a senior lecturer, I believe it’s one of my jobs to promote a rich teaching and learning environment,” he says. “If I can help another teacher improve, that teacher becomes more effective with students. The impact is exponential.”

Nelson credits his success at UW Tacoma to the quality of his graduate education at the UW. “I believe this award is a compliment to my education at UW Seattle. It is a dream come true to work for this University.”—Jill Carnell Danseco