John Nelson is an MBA candidate at the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. Prior to business school, John spent six years leading new product development efforts at EAB, an education research, technology, and consulting firm based in Washington, DC. While at EAB, John primarily focused on helping colleges and universities increase and diversify student enrollments and elevate student success through the development and launch of new enterprise software and marketing services. His efforts included the launch of an academic planning and onboarding platform for community colleges, the $850M acquisition of education marketing firm, and creation of new analytic enhancements to support students holistically from college search to graduation. At the end of his tenure, John also charted and led EAB’s expansion into the K-12 space.
Beyond his day job, John co-founded and chaired OUT@EAB–the firm’s LGBTQ employee resource group—where he championed policy changes and programmatic initiatives to help EAB earn the Human Rights Campaign’s Best Places to Work award continuously since 2017. He also previously served as a researcher across several EAB research forums where he focused on student success, academic program development, institutional effectiveness, and strategic planning.
Before joining EAB, John was also a policy researcher at the Center for International Business Education and Research at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, and Oregon Metro, where he studied on economic competitiveness and workforce alignment, affordable housing preservation, and urban forestry conservation respectively.
What made you consider business school?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by cities and communities. Consequently, I focused my studies in college on urban and education policy. After six years in working world, I wanted to combine my experience working in an entrepreneurial role with my passion for the built environment by moving into real estate. A long-time mentor suggested business school as a great way to make that transition.
What are you most excited about in terms of your time in business school?
What are you most excited about in terms of your time in business school? I’m originally from North Carolina and I’m excited to spend (at least) a few years back home. As a nerd at heart, I’m even more excited to be back in the classroom. But I’m most excited to spend two years with a new group of fun people, learning from their experiences and taking on new risks and adventures together.
Who are some leaders (in the LGBT community, in business, or in society) that most inspire you?
I am most inspired by leaders with compassion for others, an unwavering commitment to their principles, and a willingness to take risks. People like Reps. John Lewis and Maxine Waters as well as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg have been inspiring because of their commitment to defend all people—regardless of background—and often at a political cost. I also consider Philip Picardi, Chief Content Officer for Teen Vogue and them.; journalist, writer, and director Janet Mock; and activist and urban development strategist Majora Carter to be role models in how you can be a successful business leader while living a life in the service of others.
What's one thing everyone should know about you?
I was a competitive figure skater for almost a decade. Ask me anytime about the difference between a ‘swizzle’ and a ‘twizzle’.