Retired Pre-Health adviser Laurie Nelson poses for her university headshot. Nelson began her career as a professor at Pepperdine 50 years ago. Photo courtesy of Pepperdine University
Laurie Nelson worked as an assistant professor of Physical Education and the pre-health adviser at Pepperdine for five decades and will retire this spring. Nelson said she plans to continue her fitness journey upon retiring.
Over her 50 years of contributions to the school, Nelson taught courses in anatomy and physiology, kinesiology, exercise physiology, and human anatomy, along with being the pre-health adviser. Nelson said she found joy in helping pre-health students with their journey toward goals such as medical school.
“I like that I had time to do a lot of intensive health advice. It was a privilege to be able to have as much time as I did with the students,” Nelson said. “It’s fun to follow them on their journey.”
Nelson started her career at Pepperdine in 1972 engaging in research before moving into a more advisory role.
“I did some [research] for my PhD work at USC. But I didn’t do that much after that,” Nelson said. “I think it’s really valuable. I’m glad that there are lots of people that love doing it, and there are a lot of things that could have been really helpful. But I enjoyed what I was doing. And I enjoyed getting to know a lot of students and spending time with them.”
Nelson realized it was time to retire when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“The main thing was that I am 76 and need more time to just do other things rather than work,” Nelson said. “I must say the pandemic was helpful in helping me to understand that there’s another world outside and that I enjoy being in it.”
Over her tenure, Nelson said she has accumulated advice for her fellow faculty at Pepperdine.
“Absolutely, positively enjoy the day,” Nelson said. “Enjoy the student you’re meeting with. Enjoy the class that you’re teaching. Take advantage of relationships with students, staff and fellow faculty, and just appreciate and be grateful for being allowed to be given this job and this and this responsibility.”
In addition to advising faculty, Nelson worked for 20 years as pre-health adviser — a role that guides students toward education in fields such as medicine and dentistry after their undergraduate career.
“College is just a few years of your life. Be sure to find a way to enjoy what you’re doing, and, and do what you enjoy. And don’t worry too much about the actual end point,” Nelson said. “Just enjoy the journey. You have to do something you’re passionate about.”
Nelson also said she encourages students to utilize Pepperdine’s study abroad opportunities.
“I advise all pre-health students to do them, because that time doesn’t come again. That moment will come again, that opportunity won’t come again,” Nelson said. “So take advantage of everything that you want to do so that you can say that you had a full experience.”
With her new free time, Nelson said she plans to enter competitive sports.
“I love having more time for my family and friends and also am a competitive Master’s Olympic Weightlifter and now have more time to train and compete in the newly created 75+ female category to hopefully set records in a USA sanctioned meet in April,” Nelson wrote in a Feb. 11 email to the Graphic.
Overall her time at Pepperdine was positive, Nelson said, and that she enjoyed getting to know and interact with students.
“It’s a wonderful group of students. By and large, all of my pre-health students were just amazing, with very few exceptions, and I really enjoyed being a part of their journey towards whatever goal they wanted to get,” Nelson said. “I couldn’t have imagined a better time than the time I had at Pepperdine. And I am very grateful for all the support I’ve received and all the time I’ve spent, especially with students.”
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