Employee Spotlight June 2021
Joel, his wife and his daughters smile for a photo while wearing matching family reunion T-shirts.

Joel Nelson

Program Manager, Learning Programs

Meet Joel, a program manager who’s been involved with several major Ohio State endeavors (like Innovate and Digital Flagship) as well as STEM outreach programs. Most recently, this former landscaper has been tasked with helping grow our diversity initiatives as chair of the DEIJ task force for our organizations. Joel is passionate about his faith, his family and supporting his community—and he’s enjoying the continual learning inherent in his role. If you receive his OOO message, he might be out soaking up the sun in San Diego.

Q: What is your role at the university? Program Manager for Learning Programs in the Office of Distance Education and eLearning

Q: How long have you worked at Ohio State? It will be two years in July.

Q: Have you worked on any large projects since you’ve been here? My role has me engaged with Digital Flagship, events (like Innovate and Cyber Security Days), and the organization’s STEM outreach (like Science Olympiad). All are big projects, but some may feel larger depending on the day.

Q: What are you currently working on? I have taken on the role of chair of the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice Task Force for OCIO/ODEE, and working with folks internally while learning from others externally has been a big part of my days the last few months. This has also been a busy season in events and STEM outreach. We just completed the Innovate conference (while attempting to roll out a new platform for virtual events), and I’ve been working on the Science Olympiad National Tournament, State Tournament and two regional Tournaments. Brenden Dickerson and I also started a podcast last year and, after recording over 20 episodes, we are hoping to ramp that back up this summer. iPad distribution for Digital Flagship will also begin shortly.

Q: What do you like best about your job? To be honest, I’m still learning it. Eight months into it, COVID happened and the work I have been doing has evolved. But I do like that I have had the opportunity to apply a multitude of skills that I may bring to the table while also connecting with folks across our organization, the university, and community. I also have learned new skills and hope to connect more of what we are doing to the community.

Q. How do you create and innovate? I attended a conference a few years back where I had an opportunity to hear Tim O’Reilly speak. One of the things he said, and I probably won’t have the quote exactly right, was that “Some people see the parade and jump in, but innovators see the parade and jump out front.”

I took this to mean a few things. First, you have to be able to understand people to know what the parade is about and where they want to end up. Secondly, you have to be willing to make some wrong turns with confidence. And finally, be ready to kick some rocks out of the road to avoid tripping up progress. This is how I try to create and innovate.

Q: What was your very first job? Doing landscape and custodial work. I was 14 years old.

Q: Where did you go to college? I started at Ohio State, but eventually received an associate degree in Interactive Media Design from Columbus State Community College and my BS and MS in Marketing from Franklin University.

Q: Where are you from originally? Cincinnati, OH

Q: What is your favorite place to visit? San Diego, CA. I spent time there growing up. I proposed to my wife there, returned on our honeymoon, and we are taking our kids there for the first time this summer.

Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why? If money were no object, it would be the entire Mediterranean coast from Morroco through the Middle East, back around to Spain.

Q: Can you tell us about your family? My wife, Lenore, and I met at Ohio State in 1999 and have been together ever since, marrying in 2005. She is an Education Specialist with the Child Development Council of Franklin County. We have two daughters, Savannah (12) and Sierra (9). Savannah enjoys art/writing and basketball/volleyball. Sierra enjoys dance and gymnastics.

Q. What do you do for fun outside of work? Watch and attend sporting events. Work out. Travel.

Q. What kinds of things are you passionate about outside of work? I am passionate about my faith and working to make connections in the community to provide opportunities for young people.

Q: What is something most people might be surprised to know about you? Despite my height I was a better baseball player when I was younger, and it was my favorite sport.

Q: Do you have a favorite book or movie? Book: North to Freedom; Movie: Coming to America