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An Appleton mother is entering her sophomore year at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh with the support of a national women’s scholarship―and several local and state scholarships―that are empowering her education and goals for the future.

Luiza Nelson

Luiza Nelson, wife and mother of three young children, learned she will receive assistance from a Jeanette Rankin Foundation Scholarship as she studies in the UW Oshkosh Honors College working toward a degree in education.

“Luiza has done excellent work ever since she joined the Honors College in fall 2020,” said Laurence Carlin, UWO Honors College dean. “She has impressive academic ability and she is a natural leader in Honors seminar discussions. Her future looks very bright, and I am certain she will be an excellent educator.”

Carlin said Nelson joined The Honors College in fall 2020 and was the recipient of the college’s Pagelow Family Scholarship.

Nelson feels fortunate to receive funding from local and state organizations that help non-traditional students. She does not intend on taking school loans and has been funding her education entirely with scholarships.

She is assisted by the Doug and Carla Salmon Foundation, based in the Fox Valley, that helps women fund their education with a renewable scholarship.

The Wisconsin Women’s Alliance Foundation Scholarship assists women over 25 who are pursuing their education. Nelson has been awarded for two consecutive years.

Her Rankin scholarship provides $2,500 per school year and is renewable. A pioneer for women’s rights, Jeanette Rankin, the scholarship namesake, was a social and racial justice advocate who embraced diversity, equity and inclusion. In 1917, she was the first woman to be voted to the U.S. House of Representatives.

When Rankin died in 1973 at the age of 92, she bequeathed part of her Georgia estate to help mature, unemployed women workers.

“Without these organizations and the generosity of the donors to those organizations, I would not be able to continue with my education,” Nelson said, adding that she belongs to a sisterhood of women who are trying to better themselves by getting their education. Many are single mothers who work fulltime while taking college classes at night.

Luiza Nelson, second from right, with her husband and children.

“We had a Zoom meeting with new (Rankin) scholars…and it was an incredible experience for me,” she said. “They all have children to raise, households to run, laundry to do, houses to clean, all while attending classes and doing homework and studying for exams. It was amazing to meet them and know I am not alone in pursuing an education in my 30s.”

Carlin said despite her responsibilities at home, Nelson has “found the time and energy to excel at a high level”  and has earned high grades in her Honors courses. She currently has a 3.8 GPA.

Aspiring educator

Nelson, who is from Brazil and grew up in South Florida, is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in education broad-field social sciences with a minor in history and an English as a second language certificate.

Her family settled in Appleton in 2017 after moving to the Fox Valley region for a job opportunity. She eventually left her corporate job to focus on raising her family.

“I have always wanted to pursue a career in teaching, but always thought going back to college would be impossible,” she said. “But once my youngest child started school, I looked into the possibility of scholarships.”

Though not easy to take a full load of classes and maintain a household and three children’s needs, Nelson said being an older student works to her advantage: she knows what she wants to do and how lucky she is to pursue her studies. She takes her education seriously and makes sure she has time for homework.

Luiza Nelson, 36, is preparing for the fall semester at UWO.

She called her husband, Andrew, her “biggest fan” and said his managing of chores during nights and weekends allows her to focus on school.

Nelson said her husband currently is the sole earner for the family and she is funding her education 100% through scholarships. She hopes one day to be a resource to other nontraditional students who might think college is not affordable and that loans are the only option.

After she graduates, Nelson hopes to teach in the Fox Valley or in a rural school district where it can be tough to attract new teachers.

Making an impact

Nelson recently was named as the student representative to the UW Oshkosh 2022-27 strategic planning committee―a committee charged with developing a plan that will guide UW Oshkosh over the next five years.

She will represent the student body and its interests and she wants to make sure UWO retains students and provides students the support they need to graduate.

Nelson is a member of the Oshkosh Student Association, serving as director of sustainability and supporting students who submit proposals to the Green Fund. She serves on the Climate Action Committee; and is vice president of Aspiring Educators; a member of Kappa Delta Pi; and ArtsCore.

She also finds time to volunteer at her church, is active at her children’s schools and is part of the Library Building Project Advisory Committee in the city of Appleton.

Indeed, Nelson is making the most of her educational journey and making a difference in her community.

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