Dr. Erik Nielson named distinguished scholarship award recipient at University Colloquy

August 19, 2021

Dr. Erik Nielson, assistant chair and professor of liberal arts in the School of Professional & Continuing Studies (SPCS), was named a 2021 recipient of the University’s Distinguished Scholarship Award at the annual Colloquy celebration held August 18.

The criterion for selecting recipients of the Distinguished Scholarship Award is distinction through published research, presentations, exhibits, performances, grants, editorial work, leadership, and other notable accomplishments — distinction that reflects sustained scholarly contributions over a period of time.

SPCS dean Jamelle Wilson announced Nielson’s nomination by the SPCS Review Panel in a letter highlighting his contributions to scholarship documented through published books, articles, presentations, editorial work and professional leadership.

Publications include peer-reviewed articles in selective journals including African American Review, MELUS, and Race & Justice. They also include a co-edited book, The Hip-Hop and Obama Reader, published by Oxford University Press, and a co-authored book, Rap on Trial: Race, Lyrics, and Guilt in America, published by The New press.

The nomination highlights Nielson’s powerful work on the relationship between Black art the state, where his scholarship has created new spaces for academic building on his seminal work on the use of rap lyrics in criminal trials. It also points toward Nielson’s active participation in the criminal justice system, where he frequently serves as an expert witness in criminal trials and where he has also served as lead author on three amicus briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In addition to extensive scholarship, Nielson also boasts strong teaching credentials, named a finalist for the State Council of Higher Education Outstanding Faculty Award in 2015 and receiving the University of Richmond Distinguished Educator Award in 2016. He’s also engaged hip-hop artists in his classrooms, inviting the School of Professional & Continuing Studies’ first Artist-in-Residence, Donnie Lewis (aka Mad Skillz), to team teach classes on hip-hop in America.

Nielson’s program management as assistant chair for the Master of Liberal Arts program and intermittent work as interim chair of the Liberal Arts, along with his extensive service on School and University committees, rounds out Wilson’s nomination letter.

The Distinguished Scholarship Award recognizes full-time faculty of the University for a consistent record of outstanding contributions in scholarship as documented through published research, scholarship, or creative expression.

Colloquy is the University's annual event to mark the official beginning of the academic year. Faculty and staff are invited to this celebratory occasion marked by speakers, recognition of the Distinguished Educator Award recipients, Distinguished Scholarship Award recipients, introductions of new tenured and tenure-track faculty and installation of newly appointed endowed position holders.