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 IndustriesKemin is a global manufacturer providing local innovative nutritional and health solutions for a changing world.

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 2016 Call For Proposals - Nelson Pressing Global Issues Grants. The deadline for proposals is December 1, 2016.

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 visits by former U.S. Ambassadors Ryan Crocker, Joseph Mussomeli, Ronald McMullen and Kenneth Yalowitz as well as Brett Bruen, former FSO and Director of Global Engagement at the White House, and Zachary Nunn, former Director of Cybersecurity Policy at the White House.

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. Since 2001, 420 students have represented Drake at simulations in various cities including Indiannapolis, Chicago, New York, Boston, Brussels, Cairo, the Hague, Prague and Istanbul. For more information, Professor David Skidmore or Denise Ganpat .

Undergraduate Conference on Global Affairs

This annual event brings together undergraduate students from Drake and other schools (including Grinnell College, Central College, Beloit College, University of Iowa, Iowa State University, George Mason University, George Washington University and the University of Virginia) to share research on various topics in global affairs. In recent years, keynote speakers have included Professor Todd Sechser (University of Virginia), Professor John Owen (University of Virginia) and Professor Valerie Hudson (Bush School, Texas A&M University). 

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.

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University News
October 20, 2016
The Comparison Project will present the third event in its 2016–2017 series on death and dying. A community interfaith dialogue on Oct. 27 will feature representatives of three different refugee religions in Des Moines.