Barbara J. Nelson is dean emerita of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and professor emerita of its Public Policy department. She is the founder of The Concord Project and adjunct professor emerita of Social Welfare, Urban Planning, and Political Science at UCLA. While dean she was a member of the UCLA Chancellor’s Executive Committee and a former chair of the Council of Professional School Deans. Prior to her appointment as dean, she was vice president and Distinguished Professor of Public Policy at Radcliffe College where her portfolio included academic programs and strategic planning. She is a contributor to the Huffington Post on social equality and cultural issues.
Dr. Nelson’s fields of expertise include strategic decision making, conflict mediation in civil society, multi-stakeholder decision making, leadership, social policy, nonprofits and philanthropy. Her research and policy work includes comparing crisis decision making between the British Fighter Command and the German High Command in the WWII Battle of Britain. Additionally, Dr. Nelson researches contemporary strategic decision making by American foundations. She is the founder of The Concord Project, which builds bridging social capital that allows people from divided communities to work together on projects of mutual benefit.
Dr. Nelson is the author of six books and over 85 articles, book chapters, and cases. Leadership and Diversity: A Case Book (2004) (PDF) demonstrates how linking leadership and diversity improves policy education and policy making. The Concord Handbook: How to Build Social Capital Across Communities (written with Linda Kaboolian and Kathryn A. Carver, 2003) (PDF) provides the ideas and best practices for starting and sustaining organizations that successfully bring together people from groups with historic conflicts. Nelson and co-author Najma Chowdhury won the 1995 Victoria Schuck Award for Women and Politics Worldwide, bestowed by the American Political Science Association for the best book in the field of women and politics. In 1989, Nelson and historian Sara Evans won the Policy Studies Organization’s prize for the best book in the field of policy analysis for Wage Justice: Comparable Worth and the Paradox of Technocratic Reform. Nelson is the author of Making an Issue of Child Abuse: Political Agenda Setting for Social Problems (1984) and American Women and Politics (1984).
Barbara Nelson has worked or done research in over 25 countries, and has made major contributions to policy making and civic life in the United States and abroad. She was a member of the Board of the Greater Los Angeles United Way; The Geena Davis Media Project, an organization dedicated to improving the portrayals of girls and women in children’s media; and UCLA Hillel. She was a member of the Pacific Council on International Policy.
Dr. Nelson’s civic contributions included co-chairing the National Commission to Reduce Infant Mortality of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. She is a former board member the Center for the New West, Radcliffe College, the American Political Science Association, the National Council for Research on Women, the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA), and the Public Policy and International Affairs Program (PPIA). She was a Kellogg National Leadership Fellow and has held visiting fellowships at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Villa Serbelloni, the Russell Sage Foundation, the Harvard Kennedy School, and the USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development..
Before her appointment at Radcliffe, Barbara Nelson served on the faculties of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, where she was the founder and director of the Center on Women and Public Policy. She earned her B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in political science at Ohio State University, where she was elected to Pi Sigma Alpha, the political science honorary society.