Faculty Spotlight: Dawn Nielsen

Friday, January 22, 2021
Dawn Nielsen

What is the most important thing you are working on right now?

The most important thing I have been working on is helping students secure externships. This semester, approximately twenty-five percent of upper level, full-time students have accepted externships with federal and state judges, and lawyers at government, public interest, and legislative placements. During the upcoming Nevada Legislative Session, thirteen of those students will become immersed (virtually) in the legislative process. I am also meeting with preexisting and new community partners – judges and practicing lawyers – to ensure continuing opportunities for student externs to learn about the practice of law through observation and hands-on experience. Taking the time to get to know our community partners and the interests and career goals of each student is key to making great externship matches. 

What have you read, listened to, or watched recently that has influenced you or your work?

There are so many books, but two favorites are Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth and Mindset: Changing the Way You Think to Fulfill Your Potential by Carol Dweck. As the Director of Externships, I talk with students about the importance of seeking new experiences, stepping outside of their comfort zone, and having a growth mindset. Trying something new and not doing it perfectly is not failing, it’s simply part of the learning process. Tapping into our reservoirs of perseverance, determination, and grit allows us to deal with challenges and difficult situations more effectively. Externships provide students with the opportunity to practice these important life skills in a safe environment.


What is it about being a law school professor that inspires or motivates you?

What motivates me most is the desire to help students achieve their goals, whether it is externship-related or not. This involves working with students one-on-one to explore options and come up with a plan. It also involves working collaboratively with my colleagues to figure out the best way to support a student or solve a problem. Although these are unusually difficult times for many of us, the resolve, strength, creativity, compassion, and grace demonstrated by the students, staff, and faculty at Boyd inspires me beyond measure every single day. 

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