Nielson and Dean Jamelle Wilson at the 2021 Tenure & Promotion Dinner held on Nov. 15.

Erik Nielson's promotion to professor honored at tenure & promotion dinner

January 11, 2022

SPCS Faculty Update

At the February 2021 meeting of the University’s Board of Trustee, Erik Nielson’s promotion to Professor of Liberal Arts was approved by the Board based on the recommendations of the SPCS Promotion Committee, the Dean, the Provost and the President.

On November 16, 2021, the University honored faculty members whose promotions were approved at its annual Tenure and Promotion Dinner. Nielson was among faculty from all five schools — Arts & Science, Business, Law, Leadership Studies, and Professional & Continuing Studies — honored for their promotions, and was the sole member of the SPCS faculty approved for promotion in 2021.

Standards of promotion for SPCS faculty require achievement in four areas: teaching, scholarship, service, and program administration. Highlights of Nielson’s achievements include the following:

In teaching, Nielson consistently receives high marks from his students, regardless of their age demographic, who regularly use terms like “engaging” and “challenging” in their course evaluations. Students often refer to Nielson as a learner-centered teacher.

In scholarship, Nielson’s research into the use of hip hop culture and lyrics in criminal trials has become increasingly relevant in an environment of unrest spurred by racial and cultural injustices.  He’s published two books, multiple peer-reviewed articles, and op-ed pieces, and is regularly interviewed on national radio. Nielson’s co-authored book Rap on Trial: Race, Lyrics and Guilt in America was selected as a finalist for the 2020 Library of Virginia Literary Award for non-fiction.

In service, Nielson has participated and been engaged in a number of SPCS and University committees. He also has provided pro bono expert witness testimony on behalf of a number of individuals who are incarcerated allegedly as a result of their connections to hip hop culture, making a point to apply his scholarship to the actual world and make it increasingly relevant.

In program management, Nielson has served as assistant chair of liberal arts, focused specifically on the Master of Liberal Arts program. He’s taken on additional responsibilities during colleagues’ illnesses, and he continues to work on updating the Master of Liberal Arts curriculum and scope.

In her memo of recommendation to Provost Jeff Legro, Wilson summarized Nielson’s qualifications for consideration as follows:

From the time of his initial appointment and since his most recent promotion, Dr. Nielson has approached his work consistently with a clear commitment to high quality teaching and exemplary scholarship. In addition he has embraced the role of program chair and community citizen through committee service.

In addition to recognizing faculty promotions, November’s Tenure and Promotion Dinner featured a welcome by Provost Legro, remarks from President Kevin Hallock, and introduction of deans or associate deans of the several schools of the University.