Marissa at the Mountain Campus

Outstanding Grad: Marissa Nelson

Marissa And Son
Nelson’s son is one of her biggest inspirations.

By Natalie Choules

Marissa Nelson is the embodiment of perseverance and dedication.

She is graduating from Colorado State University this semester with a B.S. in Human Dimensions of Natural Resources. She has learned a lot about community-based conservation and collaboration, which has inspired a trajectory for her future.

Nelson is a non-traditional student, and that has had a substantial impact on her college experience. In 2010, she experienced a serious trauma and developed severe anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and dyslexia as a result.

“I had to re-learn how to learn and I was doubtful I could ever finish college,” she said.

Nelson is also a single mother and wasn’t sure if her son’s schedule would allow her the time needed to go back to school, but she made it happen.

“I worked so very hard my first two semesters at Colorado State to get into a groove of learning, reading, writing, and studying again,” she said. “Resources such as Adult Learner and Veteran Services, Resources for Disabled Students, my advisors, and my teachers have all been amazing and I don’t believe I could have graduated from anywhere other than CSU.”

Reisher Scholar

Nelson is a Reisher Scholar, which is a program with a rigorous application process that assists students unable to finish their degrees due to financial and unforeseen challenges.

“Being a part of the Reisher community has allowed me to make friends with people from around the world who have also struggled to finish their education due to life’s obstacles,” said Nelson. “We have supported each other and been able to finish college only because of the scholarship.”

Inspiration for the future

Nelson is interested in pursuing collaborative resource management and hopes to eventually work as an environmental consultant in community-based conservation. She wants to use critical thinking to address social justice issues in productive and effective ways.

“Local community and all stakeholders need to be included in decision-making, as well as peoples’ culture, values, and livelihoods,” said Nelson.

She’s looking ahead to her work while never losing sight of what has inspired her throughout her educational journey.

“My son inspires me to be persistent, strong, and adaptable. My family and friends inspire me to be compassionate, committed, and inclusive. My fellow ‘Warnerites’ inspire me to challenge the status quo, ask questions, and be open-minded. My teachers inspire me to stay engaged and work hard. My cat inspires me to keep advocating for all animals big and small,” she said. “And nature inspires me to protect it at all costs so that this beautiful planet we share will last for many more generations.”