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CDA Student Spotlight: Hannah Nell

Posted by on Friday, October 20, 2017 in Current Students, .

Hannah Nell

B.S. Agricultural and Applied Economics, Political Science










“The most valuable thing I have learned through the program is that there are tons of other people in the world who care about the things I care about and feel as much joy as I feel in doing this kind of work.”

Q: Where are you from originally and what did you do before starting the CDA program?

I am from Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. I went to the University of Wisconsin (Madison), where I double majored in Agricultural and Applied Economics and Political Science. Before CDA, I worked in Iowa as the coordinator for an LGBTQ youth program that helped students start Gay-Straight Alliances and advocate/organize in their schools for safety, equality, and access for LGBTQ students. I also worked as the legislative assistant for a state Senator in Iowa.

Q: Why did you choose CDA? 

I chose CDA because of its blend of social justice and community building. I was also really excited about the wide range of experiences and interests of everyone involved with the program. My background knowledge in politics, government, and economics informs the issues I am interested in tackling through CDA and how I might do so. However, while Political Science was more about becoming a part of “the system” to make government institutions better, I am now more focused on building power in communities to enact changes to the system.

Q: What are your academic/professional interests and how have you been pursuing those during your time in CDA? 

I am interested in youth development, most specifically youth participatory action research, social justice education, and youth programming that focuses on active citizenship and community engagement. I have done my practicum at two organizations: Nashville Launch Pad and Opportunity Now.

Launch Pad, a network of LGBTQ-affirming cold weather emergency shelters for youth ages 18-24, is a volunteer-driven organization, so my work has included a bit of everything—shelter supervision, social media engagement, research for evaluation, and feedback of our work. I am now a member of the board of directors and am also taking over as volunteer coordinator. Through my work there, I have learned a lot about the landscape of homelessness and housing instability in Nashville, especially for young people. I have also been able to build relationships with wonderful volunteers and shelter guests.

This past summer, I was a “Near Peer” Coach with Opportunity Now at the Martha O’Bryan Center. I mentored six young people in their first jobs by teaching them job skills, conflict resolution, communication, etc. In addition, I helped them create a community asset map for Cayce Homes and surrounding neighborhoods in East Nashville. At the end of the summer, there was a showcase when other people came to see the map they created and hear what they learned about their community, which was amazing to be a part of.

Q: Have you been involved with any cool things on campus?

Last year, I participated in a program with the KC Potter Center at Vanderbilt called “Sages and Seekers.” I was partnered with an older gay man to meet weekly and share life experiences and wisdom. The goal was to build relationships and connections across generations within the LGBTQ community. Even though the program is over, my “sage” and I are still friends and we even went to a soccer game together this summer!

Q: What have been some valuable things you’ve gained from the CDA program so far? 

I favorite class so far has been Pro-seminar, where we worked with The People’s Guide to Nashville. I really enjoyed the ethos and creativity/possibility of the projects and I loved learning more about the city, especially some things that people don’t normally know about.

The most valuable thing I have learned through the program is that there are tons of other people in the world who care about the things I care about and feel as much joy as I feel in doing this kind of work.

Q: Is there anything else people would should know about you? 

 I am very good at trivia and if you befriend me, I will make you delicious noodles/pasta from scratch. One of my post-graduate goals is to eat at every restaurant along Nolensville Pike.


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