Dr. Nelson joined the staff of the Montego Bay Community College in 1990 and was soon asked to head a department in which she had no professional training or experience. She says she took on the task, and looking back, it is “mission accomplished”.
“I came in as a lecturer and within a year, I was moved up to the Head of the Technical and Vocational Department (which) involves building, architecture, hospitality and engineering. I had no knowledge or experience in those areas, because I came in as an ‘A level’ Accounting lecturer. But the then Principal, the late Dr. Lorna Nembhard, saw the leadership skills and she entrusted that position in me, and so I went and got all the training that was necessary,” she tells JIS News.
Dr. Nelson, who was a recipient of the Prime Minister’s Medal of Achievement in the field of Education this year, says in an effort to obtain the necessary training, she went to George Brown University in Canada to learn about their culinary and hospitality programme, and then to UTech for engineering and architecture.
She notes that her first major achievement in the new position was the building of a strong department, which is now being operated as two separate faculties – Hospitality and Creative Study; and Computer and Technical Studies.
“I moved to the Vice Principal’s position in 2003 and again I was able to motivate the faculty members,” she tells JIS News.
Dr. Nelson also served as coach of the netball team, which copped the rural area intercollegiate title on two occasions.
The college is now ranked as one of the best tertiary institutions in the country, and Dr. Nelson argues that its successful transformation has allowed it to keep pace with the demands of a changing education sector.
“I feel very good about the transformation that we have made. We have influenced different areas of the (education) industry in western Jamaica, because we are involved in the tourism, agricultural and health sectors,” she notes.
“We have provided the enrolled Assistant Nursing programme and that has done very well and with the demand for nurses and trained assistant nurses, we have been able to fulfil that role. We are able to assist in tourism, because we have trained so many students for the industry, and this programme has done well,” Dr. Nelson adds.
She says that new curriculum offerings such as the Associate Degree in Social Work, the Associate Degree in Funeral Services and Mortuary Sciences (the only one of its kind in the Caribbean), and the Associate Degree in Criminal Justice will further cement Montego Bay Community College’s position as a top tertiary institution.
Dr. Nelson tells JIS News that when she leaves the education system, she wants to be remembered as “that caring individual who looks out for the students to ensure that their needs are met in the various areas, and that individual who demonstrates in all facets of life what she expects of her teachers”.