Student Profile – Matthew Nelson

Matthew Nelson is a U-M alumnus twice over, and a newly admitted candidate to the ISD Design Science PhD program. In April 2017, he completed his M.S. in Design Science, and will begin doctoral work this fall. He has a long list of accomplishments, including becoming the first African-American to participate in the U-M Multidisciplinary Design Project program and earning the Region IV Academic Improvement Scholarship.  Despite his many successes, Matthew’s path has not always been easy – but with hard work and perseverance Matthew has established himself as a leader in the academic community.  
At a young age, Matthew had a natural talent for math and science. Given his love of the subject, his teachers nominated him for the Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program, and later the Ford Academy of Manufacturing Sciences, where he was first introduced to quality engineering and the automotive industry. Matthew graduated from high school and was accepted to the University of Michigan for college. In the beginning, Matthew struggled academically, and lost confidence in himself as a student.  He left school and began working a variety of jobs, including as a truck driver. His wife’s career eventually led him to England, where Matthew began working with young people, and even developed a popular math and music seminar. Surrounded by people excited about learning rejuvenated Matthew. He was inspired to return to the University of Michigan, finish his undergrad degree – and even continued his education after that.

In 2012 Matthew completed his undergraduate degree in Industrial and Operations Engineering and decided to keep on going. “I decided to pursue my graduate degree to reset my recruiting and change the narrative around my academic status,” explained Matthew. “Receiving the admissions letter from ISD was one of my proudest moments. No one in my immediate family even has a bachelor?s degree. I have a few distant cousins who are college educated, but education had not been a priority to my family, and the opportunity to earn an advanced degree would be legacy changing.”

Matthew has thrived as an ISD student, earning high grades, making the Dean?s list, and earning awards like the College of Engineering Distinguished Leadership Award and the first-ever Center for Engineering Diversity & Outreach (CEDO) Legacy Award. “The Design Science curriculum was flexible enough to allow me to focus on my passions,” muses Matthew, “while learning more about the design process and methodology.”

In addition to his work with ISD, Matthew is the national chairperson for the National Society for Black Engineers (NSBE), a student-governed nonprofit with over 31,000 members that seeks to connect black engineers with STEM careers and increase networking opportunities within the black community. Matthew has held a number of leadership roles within NSBE, including Region IV finance chair, national finance chair and national assistant treasurer. Matthew has also served as a Multidisciplinary Design Project Peer Mentor for Detroit Manufacturing Systems, and an Innovation and New Technology Planner for Hyundai Kia America Technical Center.  

Matthew is looking forward to beginning his PhD.  His long term goals include founding his own human capital management consulting firm, and serving on the board of a think-tank focused on diversity. For now, though, he is happy to continue his work at ISD.   

“ISD is an amazing department whose offerings provide more practical knowledge than some traditional engineering programs,” says Matthew. “Companies are increasingly looking for people who can bring a multi-faceted approach to problem solving and work across functions. Many universities are developing interdisciplinary majors and following in the footsteps of ISD, but as we love to say around here, we are the Leaders and Best!”