Elizabeth NelsonElizabeth Nelson
Major: Public Health, Honors Program Minor: Biology 
Hometown: Logan, Utah

Born in Charlottesville, Virginia, where her father was doing his anesthesia residency, Elizabeth Nelson moved when she was two and grew up in Logan, Utah. She is in the Honors program and pursuing a Public Health degree with a minor in Biology.

There are many unique facets of Westminster that Elizabeth has been a part of. Her favorites have included her involvement in the Honors program—through the Peer Mentor program and the biannual newsletter Honorable Mention, her work at the Writing Center as both a researcher and the Assistant Director, her time as an ASWC Nursing Senator, the many opportunities she had to serve as an academic outreach volunteer—helping children throughout the Salt Lake Valley get acquainted with the sciences, the chance to be the LDSSA choir president, and her time as an ESL tutor. These activities let her meet different groups of students and experience everything that Westminster has to offer.

Elizabeth’s education at Westminster has been unique in that it has shown her how to see the world through both a macroscopic and microscopic lens. Her public health courses taught her to look at the big picture, how little changes affect populations on an international scale.  She was able to experience this idea firsthand through a service learning May Term trip to India where she volunteered in a hospital. “It was eye opening to see how medical volunteers truly make a difference in the lives of those in need.  Throughout my pre-med education, I learned the intricate chemical and biological make up of the world. This viewpoint informed the research that I conducted with the Great Salt Lake Institute; I searched for the presence of a new or novel halophile. It was interesting to see how much hard work is necessary for scientific breakthroughs, even if they discuss life on a minuscule scale,” she said.

She traveled to Phoenix and Boston for the National Collegiate Honors Conference where she discussed the elements of an award-winning newsletter. She was chosen as a student judge for the national Honors program newsletter contest (and thus a conference presenter) after an issue of Honorable Mention that she edited; she won first place in the contest.

Elizabeth always felt that Westminster’s environment was particularly geared towards providing the resources and support for students to succeed in personal endeavors. She experienced this atmosphere in the creation of her own annual service project, Treats for Troops. As a freshman, she approached Julie Tille in the Center for Civic Engagement with an idea to buy non-perishable food from Shaw with donated student meal plan funds. Julie introduced her to the SLICE and Service Learning Scholar programs that helped her with advertising, student support, and necessary project funds. “It was exciting to see this project grow in scope—thousands of dollars worth of food has been donated over the past four years, and I’ve been able to send nearly 100 boxes to US troops throughout the world,” she said.

Another highlight of her Westminster education was the opportunity to spend the summer researching ovarian cancer, financed by the Honors program summer research grant. While she had completed other research at Westminster, she was able to tailor this project to fit her career goals, and she had the added benefit (and responsibility) of working independently: “I remember grappling with the data—both to create the right parameters to produce the information I wanted as well as figuring out the best way to display my results for an audience unfamiliar with cancer statistics. It was gratifying to present my findings to the Honors community as well as at Westminster’s Undergraduate Research Fair and realize that I had intelligently conducted a research project that produced significant results (and helped me to be a co-winner of the 2013 QUARC award).”

One special highlight of her time at Westminster directly showcases how much the faculty care about their students. She was contacted by one of her professors regarding an opportunity to edit a fantasy novel written by a Westminster alumnus. Being an avid reader herself, she jumped at the chance and was thrilled to be hired based on her work in the Writing Center and the recommendation of her professor. Now, the first book in the series is nearly finished with the promise of more to come! Elizabeth said, “This opportunity wouldn’t have been possible without my professor recognizing my potential and passing my name along!”

Elizabeth’s academic (or other) highlights are probably her favorite memories at Westminster. They’re the points in her education that she recalls with excitement and pride. With regards to Treats for Troops specifically, one of her favorite memories occurred the second day of the project, when she wasn’t yet sure if the idea was going to be a success. She remembers walking into Shaw that morning and wondering if there would be any food in the giant tubs she had set out the night before.  She knew it was early, but she desperately wanted some hint that the project would be well received by the students. To her great shock, the four tubs were filled to the brim with donated non-perishables!  She recalls standing in astonishment, realizing how successful the project could be. So many students have supported Treats for Troops since then, not only in donating food, but also in written letters and packing boxes. She has even found a student willing to take over after she graduates, so the project will continue, hopefully for years to come – a heart-warming legacy.

She has no doubt that her education at Westminster made her goal of attending medical school possible. The college gave her the opportunity to grow academically through rigorous and rewarding courses, and as a person, with exposure to a breadth of unique activities. “The faculty support I received, even as a first semester student, has been incredible, and I am confident that the friendships I’ve made with my dedicated professors will continue past graduation,” she said.

After graduation, she will be attending the University of Utah, School of Medicine.  Eventually, she hopes to pursue a career in obstetrics and gynecology. It has been her dream for many years and she’s very excited to enter the next stage of the journey.

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