Steven Leonice

Steven (Steve) L. Nelson, J.D, Ph.D

Department Chair, Associate Professor

Educational Psychology, Leadership, and Higher Education
CEB 320
Mail Code


Nelson is an associate professor of education policy & leadership in the educational psychology, leadership, and higher education department. Before his current appointment, Nelson served on the faculty of the University of Memphis (as program coordinator) and the University of New Orleans. He has taught and led in charter schools, traditional public schools, and private schools in the New Orleans area. Nelson also served as the first-ever education advocate at the Southern Poverty Law Center’s School-to-Prison Pipeline Project in New Orleans. In addition, he worked on charter school law and policy, special education access and equity, and juvenile justice issues.

Nelson’s research and teaching interests intersect with education law, policy, and education politics. In particular, his research and teaching consider how education reform laws, policies, and political dynamics advance, impede or regress efforts at achieving educational equity for Black students in urban settings. He considers himself a critical race theorist. His work has been published in various media, including law reviews, education journals, and edited books. 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 University Council of Educational Administration, the Critical Race Studies in Education Association, the Education Law Association, the Association of Urban Law Scholars, and the Law & Society Association. He fulfills leadership roles in some of these organizations and frequently presents scholarly works and professional developments at international and national conferences and research symposia.

Nelson is currently a non-resident faculty fellow at the Fordham University Urban Law Center. Nelson sits on the prestigious Professor’s Panel for the Local Solutions Support Center. He is currently the Division L, Section 2 Chairperson, and the Law & Education Special Interest Group Program Chair in the American Educational Research Association. He is an associate editor of the Journal of Research on Leadership Education. He also holds appointments on the editorial boards of prestigious research journals Urban Education and Educational Researcher. At the University of Memphis, Nelson served as an administrative hearing officer and a Title IX sexual assault hearing officer. Additionally, he was the Department of Leadership’s Faculty Senate representative (and elected by the Faculty Senate as a member of the Executive Committee).