Murdered professor loved and respected by students

by Amy Devito

San Diego State is comprised of one united community of students and faculty. Aztecs are unique; not only do they fight and stand as an impenetrable family throughout the renowned accomplishments they achieve, but they also hold strong during times of sadness.

Unfortunately, during this past Winter Break the community lost a prominent teacher and mentor because of a domestic violence incident. Nichelle Nelson taught for just one semester in the Child and Family Development department, but within that short amount of time, she touched and inspired the lives of several students and professors alike. By educating the student body on her achievements, SDSU hopes to consecrate the memory of Nelson.

Nelson served a great purpose at the school, in addition to being a marriage and family therapist.

“Nichelle Nelson counseled hundreds of children and families over the 10-year period (as a marriage and family therapist),” Betsy Jones, child care consultant and advocate, said.

“Nichelle believed strong families build stable, safe communities where all members actively participate to make dreams real.”

According to Dr. Shulamif Ritblatt, department chair of the child and family development department, Nelson took the time to familiarize herself with her students, spending a good deal of one-on-one time with them. Ritblatt described Nelson as a happy, vibrant person to be around who was always smiling and kept a pleasant demeanor.

Dr. Ritblatt knew of the abuse occurring in Nelson’s life and put her best efforts forward to intervene and provide her guidance.

“You would think a professional, well-educated woman like Nichelle would (not) be prone to a situation like this, but it just goes to show that violence has no boundaries and nothing makes anyone immune to it,” Ritblatt said. She continued by expressing her gratitude toward students who indicated there was abuse occurring, which then allowed her to step in. “I see this issue as my issue, an incident like this could really open everyone’s eyes to the complexity of violence and remind people to be more in tune with their surroundings.”

Ritblatt suggested there be an annual day of remembrance for Nelson to help raise awareness about domestic abuse as well as provide a place for students and faculty to talk about violence.

It’s a difficult situation when becoming involved in the personal life of a fellow peer or even a professor, especially when it would seem intrusive. But when it comes to violence, there is a crucial point when something needs to be done for the welfare of the person at risk. It may seem that students and faculty have barriers between their worlds, but in this case Nelson’s students stepped up, recognized the problem and addressed it.

“Our hearts are heavy and we’re working on starting a support group that perhaps others on campus who have experienced something like this may also want to join,” Shane Padamada, an SDSU student, said. “I’m sure others have experienced something similar and feel a lack of support and isolation. I’m hoping we can do something to change that and let everyone know that if they ever go through abuse, there is a strong network of people right on campus that genuinely wants to help and support them.”

Although domestic violence affects men and women every day, abuse can be prevented through resources within the local community. Hotlines, shelters, counselors and protective services can aid victims when needed.

“It’s imperative to educate the public on the issues we deal with when it comes to the underlying causes of oppression, which occurs whenever there is an imbalance of power which leads to abuse,” Noel Harlow, legal and advocacy services director at Center for Community Solutions, said. “Staying supportive is the key. It’s easy to become frustrated with him or her but you cannot be judgmental or isolate them. You must keep your heart open.”

Aztecs stand united through achievements and downfalls. No matter the circumstance, student or professor, SDSU remains as one.
In loving memory of Nichelle Nelson.