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Amy Hawn Nelson

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Amy Hawn Nelson: One Researching Mother

She runs the numbers on social policy and runs a house with two small children

Amy Hawn Nelson

She runs the numbers on social policy and runs a house with two small children

I am a community-engaged researcher who can drop a lot of knowledge around cross-sector data sharing as a tool to improve social policy.

When my mind isn’t focused on data sharing, social policy, and the never-ending mental load that is working motherhood, I fixate on intersectional topics related to educational equity. The discriminatory impacts of school choice, school integration outcomes and the harms of racial and socio-economic isolation has resulted in the state of our community, which has the most racially and economically segregated schools in the state across large districts.

I believe that public education should be supported and cherished, as the foundation of our democracy and our economy. I believe in the power of community and the power of sharing. I believe that data can be used for harm and for good, and we must actively and collectively choose good. I believe that white supremacy must be acknowledged and uprooted in order for our community to be grounded in justice and love.

My time is spent putting these beliefs into action while balancing the need to enjoy my kids, like my husband, be a good daughter, have friends, be healthy and take care of a chronic back injury—all while changing diapers, supporting our two preschools, answering emails, meeting deadlines, traveling for work, kissing my husband, folding laundry, meal planning, grocery shopping, scrubbing toilets, and picking toys off the floor.


Dr. Amy Hawn Nelson is a member of the research faculty at the University of Pennsylvania. Previously she was the director of Social Research for the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute and Director of the Institute for Social Capital. She focuses on intersectional topics related to education policy, and was selected as a Charlottean of the Year in 2015. She lives in Charlotte with her husband and two daughters.

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