The Rolland and Mary Nelson Institute for Diplomacy and International Affairs

The Rolland and Mary Nelson Institute for Diplomacy and International Affairs provides in-depth international knowledge and experiences for select students who wish to pursue careers in international public affairs. The Institute was established in 2012 with a gift from Rolland and Mary Nelson, founders of Kemin Industries.

The Nelson Institute supports a cluster of related initiatives that together offer students a rich array of learning experiences related to global problems:

Global Pressing Issues Grant

The Nelson Institute invites proposals for a two-year grant that will fund interdisciplinary faculty-student research projects that address a global issue of broad public importance. The purpose of this initiative is to enhance Drake’s involvement in addressing pressing global issues, thus helping position Drake as a global knowledge hub in service to local, national and international communities. Download the Nelson Institute Global Pressing Issues - Call for Proposals. The deadline for the initial round of proposals is December 1, 2015.

Visiting Diplomat

The Institute hosts diplomats who bring a lifetime of professional experience in international public affairs to their interactions with faculty, staff, students and the community. Visiting diplomats offer public lectures, mentor students, visit classes, engage in community outreach and offer strategic advice to university leadership on ways to further Drake’s internationalization mission. 

Retired United States Foreign Service Officer Jerry Gallucci served as a Visiting Diplomat during the 2013-14 academic year. The Nelson Institute has also hosted former U.S. Ambassadors Ryan Crocker and Joseph Mussomeli.

International Simulations

The Institute funds Drake student participation in Model United Nations, European Union and Arab League simulations. These programs challenge students to apply what they have learned in the classroom to realistic simulations of international diplomacy. For more information, contact Professor Debra DeLaet about the Model United Nations, Professor Eleanor Zeff about the Model European Union and Professor Mahmoud Hamad about the Model Arab League.

Undergraduate Conference on Global Affairs

This annual event brings together undergraduate students from Drake and other schools to share research on various topics in global affairs.

The Nelson Institute Student Conference Fund

The Nelson Institute provides limited funding for Drake students to attend regional and national conferences that focus on global or international topics.  Funding ranges from $100-$250 depending upon both costs and the level of student participation (e.g., more funding is provided where a student presents a paper, serves as a discussant or engages in other types of active participation).

Application should include: Name, major(s), year in school, title, location and dates of conference, conference web address, registration cost (if any), mode of transportation to the conference and a brief paragraph explaining how the conference relates to the student’s academic goals and what form of participation the student will engage at the conference. Applications that fail to address all of these items will not be considered.

Please send applications for funding to Professor David Skidmore (

Here is a brief list of student and professional conferences eligible for funding (students may also identify other relevant conferences on their own).

2015 Walsh Exchange: A Conference on International Relations Research - Georgetown University

Global Affairs Symposium: Conceptualizing the Global – Recontextualizing the Local, Regional and International - Rutgers University Division of Global Affairs

Pittsburgh Asia Consortium Annual Undergraduate Asian Studies Conference - University of Pittsburgh

Human Rights Conference - University of Dayton

International Studies Association Midwest Annual Conference – St. Louis


For more information about the Nelson Institute, contact Professor David Skidmore.

University News
November 20, 2015
The Comparison Project will host a community interfaith dialogue on death and dying on Thursday, Dec. 3, at Iles' Funeral Home, Dunn's Chapel, 2121 Grand Ave.