Dean E. Nelson, Ph.D.

Director, Journalism Program

Dean Nelson writes occasionally for the New York Times, the Boston Globe, San Diego Magazine, Christianity Today, Sojourners, and several other national publications. He has won several awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for his reporting, and has written or co-written 14 books. Nelson is a frequent speaker at writing workshops and retreats. He has traveled throughout the world covering stories of human interest — India, where he wrote about the slums of Bombay; Kosovo, where he interviewed and wrote about victims of terrorism; Tanzania, where he wrote about members of the Black Panther Party who live in exile; Tibet, where he wrote about religious persecution; Central America, where he wrote about poverty and contaminated water; New Orleans, where he wrote about the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina; Haiti, where he wrote about the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake; Iceland, where he wrote about the literary scene there; Croatia, where he wrote about a part of Europe that is trying to reinvent itself after the breakup of the Soviet Union; Rome, where he wrote about the Canonization of Mother Teresa, and elsewhere.

He has covered the stunning, the moving, the mysterious, the tragic, the amusing and the absurd.

His book on the seven sacraments, God Hides in Plain Sight: How to Find the Sacred in a Chaotic World, was published by Brazos Press in 2009.

His most recent book is Quantum Leap: How John Polkinghorne Found God in Science and Religion, published in 2011 by Lion-Hudson Press of Oxford, England. The book is about the life of John Polkinghorne, a world-famous physicist who became a priest in the Anglican Church. It is also about how faith and science do not need to be mutually exclusive.

In addition to directing the PLNU journalism program, Nelson also hosts the annual Writer’s Symposium By The Sea, where prominent writers come to discuss the craft of writing. Nelson has interviewed Amy Tan, Anne Lamott, Gay Talese, Anchee Min, Ray Bradbury, George Plimpton, Joyce Carol Oates, Garrison Keillor, Billy Collins, Nikki Giovanni, Dick Enberg, Otis Chandler, Kathleen Norris, Donald Miller, Bill Moyers, Jim Wallis, Chitra Divakaruni, Joseph Wambaugh, James Fallows, Barbara Brown Taylor, Eugene Peterson, Philip Yancey, Michael Eric Dyson, Bill McKibben, Chris Hedges, Rachel Held Evans, Luis Urrea and dozens of others. Many of those interviews are available for viewing on this site and on UCSD-TV’s website. They have been broadcast worldwide.

Nelson came to San Diego from Minneapolis, where he was working as a business writer.

He has a Ph.D. in journalism from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri at Columbia, and a bachelor’s degree in literature from MidAmerica Nazarene University in Kansas City.

He grew up in Minnesota, is a die-hard hockey player and fan, is married to his college sweetheart, Marcia, and has two adult children, Blake and Vanessa.

Read more information on Nelson's website.

Education

  • Ph.D, E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Ohio University, Athens, Ohio 1991
  • M.A., School of Journalism, University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri, 1984
  • B.A., Literature, MidAmerica Nazarene University, Olathe, Kansas, 1976

Courses Taught

  • Advanced Reporting - WRI 310
  • Creative Writing: Creative Nonfiction - WRI 323
  • Introduction to Journalism - WRI 250
  • College Composition - WRI 110

Experience in Field

  • Writes occasionally for the New York Times, San Diego Magazine, Boston Globe, Sojourners, Christianity Today, Christian Century, Westways, and several other magazines and websites
  • Also a frequent speaker at writers conferences

Professional and Community Involvement

  • Former president of local chapter of Society of Professional Journalists
  • Board Member of San Diego Writers, Ink, a community writing organization

Awards and Honors

  • 2016 — First Place, Evangelical Press Association, for monthly column in Refreshed Magazine
  • 2014 — First Place, Magazine Category, San Diego Press Club, for story in San Diego Magazine on Honor Flights: “My Father the Hero”
  • 2012 — First Place, Magazine Category, San Diego Press Club, for story in San Diego Magazine about Vicente Fox: “The Fantastic Mr. Fox”
  • 2010 — First Place, Nonfiction Book Category, San Diego Christian Writers and Editors Guild, for “God Hides in Plain Sight”
  • 2008 — Best of Show, San Diego Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, for story in San Diego Magazine on dysfunction in city government: “Uncivil War at City Hall”
  • 2008 — First Place, Investigative Magazine Category, San Diego Press Club, for story in San Diego Magazine on dysfunction in city government: “Uncivil War at City Hall”
  • 2006 — First Place, Nonfiction Category, San Diego Book Awards, for “The Power of Serving Others”
  • 2003 — First Place, Magazine Category, San Diego Press Club
  • 1997 — First Place, Nonfiction Category, San Diego Book Awards, for “Heart and Soul: Awakening Your Passion to Serve”
  • 1994 — First Place, Special Projects Category, San Diego Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists
  • 1989 — Eagle Award, CINE Society, for screenplay

Dissertations, Presentations, and Publications

  • Dissertations: How Business and Economy Coverage Changed in United States Newspapers
  • Several publications and presentations at conferences afterward