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Nelson Z

- Research Program Mentor

PhD at Indiana University - Bloomington


mental health; academic persistence; psycho-social interventions; People of Color/BIOPC communities; values setting; career goals


I'm the Founder, CEO, and mental health & academic thrive consultant ( through Liberate The Block, LLC ( ~ an agency dedicated to helping Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), first-generation, and low-income communities liberate themselves and achieve their wildest dreams. I'm also a first-generation college graduate, child of immigrants, and a published author. I am a former McNair Scholar, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, & Medicine-Ford Foundation Fellow, Herman B. Wells Graduate Fellow, International Counseling Psychologist, and former Assistant Professor at the University of Kentucky. My research program focuses on examining the impact of intersectional oppression on historically excluded groups & creating culturally relevant interventions to enhance their well-being. I study academic persistence and mental wellness within this framework to promote holistic healing among BIPOC. I earned Bachelor's degrees in Psychology & Sociology, a Master's degree in Learning Science-Educational Psychology Track, and a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology with a minor in Inquiry Methodology from Indiana University. In addition to work, I love reading (fantasy, science fiction, self-empowerment, business, poetry, novels, and biographies), discovering new music/art, outdoor activities, time with friends and family, and living a holistically full life.

Project ideas

Project ideas are meant to help inspire student thinking about their own project. Students are in the driver seat of their research and are free to use any or none of the ideas shared by their mentors.

Podcast To Help BIPOC Students Thrive In School

This project entails using case studies, academic research articles, and other sources to cover the issues Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) students face (e.g., racial oppression and mental health concerns) and the ways they overcome them (e.g., support from friends and family, therapy, and academic resources). The product will be a multi-part podcast that serves as a resource to help BIPOC students thrive, not just survive in school.

My Academic Success Plan

This project will help answer the question, “What does your personal environment for success consist of?” By completing various activities that require a combination of personal reflection and research, students will systemically identify their personal values; short and long-term career goals; the environment they perform best in; time management skills, and overcoming procrastination and perfectionism. The product will be a 10-15 minute presentation in which student summarize their personal environment for success.

Teaching experience

I have had opportunities to teach and mentor students in several capacities, including as an instructor, mentor, and supervisor. Across 8 sections of “Becoming the Best Student”, I independently taught 150 international undergraduate students and those on academic probation how to thrive in college. Over two semesters, I averaged a 3.5/4 quantitative teaching evaluation on the course and as an instructor, and qualitatively; one student wrote, “His compassion to help others do their best motivated me to achieve my goals and do better academically.” I have also co-instructed a graduate level laboratory course on foundational clinical skills. In this role, I led lectures on micro counseling skills and discussions on working with clients. I also observed students practicing their skills and provide constructive feedback on how to improve. As a teaching assistant for a doctoral research methods course, I taught the students how to conduct analyses using SPSS and R. Currently, I am a faculty member in a Counseling Psychology Program where I instruct graduate students on topics related to mental health and clinical work. Instructing these courses showed me how much I enjoy teaching, which bolstered my conviction to become a professor so that I can continue to teach students from an array of backgrounds. In addition to instructing in the classroom, during my time at Indiana University, I served as a mentor to McNair Scholar’s (undergraduate students from first-generation and/or low socioeconomic status backgrounds as well as racial/ethnic minoritized identities) on how to conduct basic research from inception to completion. Moreover, I mentored 11 undergraduate, 1 master’s, and 2 doctoral students throughout my time as Lab Coordinator for several research labs. These students have also co-authored presentations at national conferences and submitted manuscripts for publication with me. I find mentoring to be immensely rewarding as it is in line with my life’s mission of guiding students to achieve academic success. I consistently work to create a collaborative and supportive atmosphere in which I meet with my mentees regularly to check in on individual progress, collaborative projects, and engage in professional development (e.g., teaching research skills and discussing journal articles to bolster content knowledge). I continually make an effort to learn about my mentees as individuals in the context of their intersecting identities, actively initiate conversations in which I openly reflect upon how my own identities relate to theirs and check in with them to see if their specific needs are being met. Additionally, I use a tailored mentoring style by prioritizing mentees’ personal and professional goals and adjusting to fit their needs. I am extremely proud to have helped train so many students and that several of the undergraduate students I have mentored over the years have gone on to graduate school at the masters and doctoral level.


Work experience

University of Kentucky (2021 - 2022)
Assistant Professor
Liberate The Block, LLC (2022 - Current)
Founder & CEO


Indiana University - Bloomington
BA Bachelor of Arts (2015)
Psychology & Sociology
Indiana University - Bloomington
MS Master of Science (2018)
Learning Sciences-Educational Psychology Track
Indiana University - Bloomington
PhD Doctor of Philosophy (2021)
Counseling Psychology

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