I Spy Someone making a difference.
Professor Scott Nelson makes a difference at CCUby Russell Alston
From California to Mexico and on to Italy and North Carolina; Scott Nelson took quite a journey before landing at Coastal Carolina University as lecturer of Italian.
Nelson, a native of Orange County, California, began at California State University, Chico as a double major in Italian and Spanish, graduating in 2002. He also earned a master’s degree in Italian with a focus on teaching methodology in 2004 from CSU, Chico. Butte Community College in Oroville, Calif., was his next stop from 2003 to 2004 where he taught two classes a semester as an adjunct professor of Italian. He wanted something more, however, and began applying to schools on the East Coast, because he’d been in California his whole life and wanted to see something different.
In 1999, a study abroad trip to Querétaro / Guadalajara, Mexico, helped Nelson realize he had an aptitude for languages. One night, he happened upon a movie on television. “The subtitles were Spanish, but the audio was Italian,” he says. “It was after viewing the film that I realized I could learn another language and live in another country.”
In January 2005, Nelson and a college friend arrived in Rome to “just live there, be there and speak Italian all the time” and to prepare for the Ph.D. program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. For six months, he worked various odd jobs, from the front desk of his Italian roommate’s beauty salon to giving English lessons for €10 an hour ($13). He also served as translator and photographer for magazine articles, covering topics such as parachuting excursions and even a 14-time Italian karate champion.
It was also in Rome through friends that Nelson met his future wife, Claudia Dominguez. She accompanied him back to North Carolina to pursue a master’s degree in art at N.C. State, while he completed a Ph.D. in Italian studies at UNC. They married three years ago.
A detour took him back to Italy in 2006. As part of his Ph.D. program, Nelson taught Italian at the Istituto Lorenzo de’ Medici in Florence for a year. After returning to the states, he began the job search, settling on South Carolina (his wife was still enrolled at N.C. State). He arrived at CCU in the fall of 2011.
“He really has taken the program to the next level,” says Matthieu Chan Tsin, chair of the Department of World Languages and Cultures. Prior to Nelson joining the faculty, the Italian program’s third and fourth level classes had such a low turnout that they were dropped.That's not the case anymore. Nelson provides more than just tinstruction for students to further their knowledge in Italian, however. Chan Tsin believes he is “a professor who finds a successful way of making Italian interesting.”
Chan Tsin refers to the range of activities available outside the classroom, all started by Nelson. There is the Italian Conversation Club, an intramural Italian soccer team, potluck dinners where Nelson cooks traditional Italian cuisine and the Italian film series which he selects a film and also cooks for. Nelson believes the film series is the more popular activity due to the free food and accessibility of the chosen film to all levels of the language. “These activities offer some sort of outside involvement to get kids interested beyond the requirements,” he says “I hope they become student-driven in the future.”
The popularity of the Italian language courses has increased since Nelson’s stint at CCU. “There used to be five classes per year due to low enrollment,” says Chan Tsin. “Now its possible to have seven.” Nelson believes another Italian professor will be needed in the coming years because of the high interest in the course. He currently is the only one.
Chan Tsin attributes the success of the program to Nelson’s giving and cooperative nature that allows him to relate to students while maintaining high standards.
Patience Lock, coordinator for the Foreign Language Instructional Center and a student of Nelson’s, has the best view of the type of educator Nelson is. “Student success is important to him, along with an appreciation of the Italian language and culture.”