Alumna is inaugural recipient of diversity and inclusion award
Texas State University alumna Aqualia (Shauna) Nelson (B.S. ‘01) is the first recipient of the National Environmental Health Association’s Dr. Bailus Walker, Jr. Diversity & Inclusion Award.
Nelson is a consumer safety officer for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), where she conducts activities to regulate the manufacture, distribution, and marketing of tobacco products. As a Registered Environmental Health Specialist/Registered Sanitarian, Nelson cultivates healthier relationships between humans and the environment in the areas of air quality and pollution, healthy homes, water and food safety, hazardous waste management and disposal, and environmental justice.
Nelson’s father was a Bobcat, and she felt destined to follow in his footsteps. With the support of an Alumni Association scholarship, she pursued a biology degree at Texas State. “I chose a path in science,” says Nelson, “and never thought it would lead to where I am today. The curriculum taken was the exact mix of what I needed to advance in my career. More so, I gained valuable knowledge which prepared me for a career in public health and environmental health.”
In her role with the FDA, Nelson participates in nationwide diversity and inclusion career events aimed at diverse groups in STEM, veterans, and people with disabilities. She also assists in advancing the FDA’s diversity and inclusion program through strategic messaging that ensures differences are embraced and inclusive culture is supported throughout the workplace, creating a space where everyone can thrive.
While she was a student at Texas State, Nelson was engaged with campus life and the local community. “Texas State allowed me to be part of a diverse community, meeting new people and fostering lasting friendships,” she says. She has maintained her charitable spirit, and continues to give back and champions diversity and inclusion locally. She has served as a volunteer photographer at San Antonio’s AccessAbility Fest and a discussion moderator for The Conversation 360°, facilitating meaningful conversations between disabled residents and City of San Antonio representatives. She also worked with the city overseeing HUD-funded projects and ensuring underserved communities have access to programs such as Meals on Wheels and Habitat for Humanity and promoting opportunities that build stronger and more resilient communities, provide decent housing, suitable living environments, and economic expansion for low and moderate-income individuals.
The National Environmental Health Association introduced the Dr. Bailus Walker, Jr. Diversity & Inclusion Awareness award in 2020. Going forward, the award will be given annually to recognize an individual or group who has made significant achievements in developing or enhancing a more culturally diverse, inclusive, and competent environment.