Chris Angela Nelson

Associate Professor; Faculty Director, NAI

What I do

I am a K'awaika and Diné Assistant Professor in the Morgridge College of Education - Higher Education Department.


Indigenous Education, higher education, Indigenous Methodology

Professional Biography

Chris A. Nelson, PhD, (Diné and Laguna Pueblo) is an Assistant Professor at the University of Denver in the Morgridge College of Education – Higher Education Department. Chris received her doctorate in higher education from the University of Arizona’s Center for the Study of Higher Education. She also holds a master’s in Higher Education from the University of Arizona and bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Phoenix. With over 10 years of higher education experience, she has a cross sectioning of experiences ranging from educational pathways in STEM, policy research, and student affairs. She has served as a summer research associate with the American Council on Education and is an alumna of the Jack Kent Cooke Dissertation Fellowship.
Chris utilizes a Native Nation Building lens and critical theory to explores the purpose of higher education by addressing the collective and political factors influencing Indigenous college students and tribal communities. Her research challenges the socially accepted norm that college is an individual pursuit resulting in primarily individual benefits. Ultimately, as first-generation college student, she works for underserved communities and their students, who deserve every chance to access, persist, and complete a higher education degree.


  • Ph.D., Higher Education, University of Arizona, 2015
  • MA, Higher Education, University of Arizona, 2010

Professional Affiliations

  • Association for the Study of Higher Education

Key Projects

  • New Mexico Learning and Education Consortium (NMLEC)


Davidson, C., Lopez, J., Minthorn, R., Nelson, C. A., Oxendine, D., Shotton, H., et al. (2018). "So You Think You're Woke?!": Addressing Higher Education's Complicity to Silence and Invisibilize Indigenous Peoples. ASHE Annual Meeting. Tampa, FL: Association for the Study of Higher Education.
Minthorn, R. Z., & Nelson, C. A. (2018). Colonized and racist Indigenous campus tour. American Educational Research Association. San Antonio, TX.
Nelson, C. A. (2017). Conceptualizing the Individual-Independent and Political-Collective (II/PC) Model. He Mawana Whenua Indigenous Research Conference. Hamilton, New Zealand.
Nelson, C. A., Garcia-Olp, M., & Hinzo, A. (2019). Resisting interlocking systems of oppression through Indigenized STEM curriculum and relationship building. CRESEA 2018 Annual Conference. San Diego, CA: Critical Race Studies in Education Association (CRESEA).


  • AERA Division J - Postsecondary Education Poster Award, AERA Division J
  • 2020 ASHE Special Merit Award, Association for the Study of Higher Education
  • Bobby Wright Award for Early Career Contributions to Research in Indigenous Education, AERA Indigenous Peoples of the Americas Special Interest Group
  • Indigenous Peoples’ Day Proclamation Reading Honoree , Council of the City and County of Denver and the Agency for Human Rights and Community Partnerships