Dickinson Welcomes Dr. Cody Nielsen, Director of Center for Service and Social Justice


Dr. Nielsen. Photo Courtesy of campusministrymatters.com.

Tessa Busby '24, Staff Writer

The Center for Spirituality and Social Justice (CSSJ) has recently welcomed Dr. Cody Nielsen as its new director following the retirement of its former Director, Rev. Donna Hughes, last spring.

Dr. Cody Nielsen always knew he wanted to work in education and his upbringing was a major contributing factor in this goal. Nielsen grew up in a small town in Iowa; so small that his graduating high school class had just 55 students. As a result, college allowed Nielsen to discover who he was and to develop interests and passions. These passions have led him to work at major institutions such as University of Minnesota, University of Northern Iowa, Harvard, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology along with other institutions around the United States and Canada.

As the new leader for the CCSJ, Nielsen said he is “very committed to religious, secular and spiritual equity and inclusion in higher education.” Although his goals for the CSSJ will become more apparent as the college resumes some degree of normalcy, he has high hopes for the center. 

Nielsen wants to create a more welcoming and inclusive space for everyone, regardless of their religious practices or lack thereof. “My goal is to foster a campus which promotes inclusion of religious, secular and spiritual identities…as well as fosters a sense of curiosity and engaged support,” he said. A few of his ideas include kosher, halal and lacto-vegetarian options in the dining centers and to provide academic calendar accommodations. 

This year and recent events have changed everyone and how we view our role on Dickinson’s campus and Dr. Nielsen is no different. His new take on the job is that “there should be less emphasis on religion and more on equity and inclusion.” He urges students to “not worry about their interests and identities and how they interact with one’s spirituality.” He also emphasizes that “he is simply available to students as an additional connection and supportive person on campus.” 

 Nielsen also holds a masters degree in mental health counseling from the University of Northern Iowa and understands the fragility of the world and that strong feelings are bound to surface as a result. He gives the following advice to current Dickinsonians: “Don’t be afraid of not being ok and to prepare yourself to receive someone else as not being ok.” 

He also stresses the importance of talking about the emotions and is “ready, willing and excited to support you [students] in talking about it.” Additionally, Nielsen sees the responsibilities of the CSSJ changing over the next academic year to cater to students and the support one might need and will be “focused on institutional policy development” and “the supportive programming that can be focused on students’ needs during COVID.”

Nielsen looks forward to exploring his new surroundings and is open to suggestions on places to enjoy on campus. He, like everyone else, is looking forward to being on campus, surrounded by students and is eager to host board games and bread making days, as well as cooking classes.