Ashlee Nelson.pngFebruary 25, 2020

Ashlee Nelson is completing her Master of Public Health degree at the University of North Dakota. As part of her program, Nelson is working at Grand Forks Public Health as an opioid response and community behavioral intern. Nelson is also a graduate teaching and research assistant in the microbiology lab at UND, while also conducting research to enhance learning opportunities for American Indian students. She is also the volunteer social media and press representative for the UND “Out of the Darkness Campus Walk” that benefits the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

This hardworking woman may be one that Comet Nation knows because she is one of many wonderful alumni who is showcasing just how far Mayville State can help you go. Originally from Lindstrom, Minn., Ashlee Nelson attended Mayville State from 2013 to 2016. During that time, Nelson earned a major in biology and a minor in chemistry.

Nelson noted that the small class sizes at Mayville State allowed for connections to be made between students and professors. She said, “I felt that the professors knew that they could push me, so I always felt challenged in the best way.”

Her involvement in the science department at Mayville led to opportunities like field and lab research that Nelson says taught her more leadership and problem-solving skills than a textbook ever could. Nelson credits multiple professors and staff members who helped her to get where she is today, including Dr. Joseph Mehus, Dr. Sarah Sletten, and Kristi Lentz.

Nelson explains that Dr. Mehus was the first professor to really push her. She said, “Not only is he one of the smartest people that I know, but his involvement on committees and dedication to inclusivity is inspiring.”

Dr. Sarah Sletten, a former Mayville State professor, remains a role model for women in science, including Ashlee, as they continue to work together at UND. Dr. Sletten taught Nelson how drive and confidence can do wonders.

Finally, Nelson gives credit to Mayville State counselor Kristi Lenz who lends an ear for students during their academic careers.

“I can honestly say that I would not be where I am today without these people, no matter how much they refuse to take credit,” said Ashlee.

With all of the knowledge she gained while at Mayville State and with continuing education at UND, Nelson hopes that in the future she will make a positive impact “as far and wide” as she can reach. She said, “I think that we need a transformed sense of community in this world, and I think that it’s possible. We can all be lifelong teachers and leaners of kindness and compassion.”

While she is unsure of the path, Nelson stated that she will have fun doing anything she does.

Recently, Nelson was awarded the Rocky Mountain Public Health Training Center student stipend, an award presented by the Student Leaders in Public Health Program from the University of Colorado, Denver.

The mission of that organization: “The goal of the Student Leaders in Public Health program is to enhance the public health workforce in the Rocky Mountain region, specifically in underserved communities and populations by supporting students conducting applied health projects and providing opportunities for mentoring and professional development.”

Nelson’s work with this program is Indians into Medicine: Native Educator University Research Opportunity in Neuroscience (INMED: NEUROscience). She and Dr. Sletten work together to bring “teachers in American Indian tribal middle and high schools together in order to conduct research.”

The research takes many avenues, but the overall goal for Nelson and Dr. Sletten is to get more tribal students to pursue careers in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) field, which will in turn bring more skills and services to American Indian communities.

Nelson stated, “The more that we can put back into those communities, the more we will see their overall education and health outcomes improve.” By combatting social detriments and underserved populations, Nelson’s work is directly impacting public health. This is an extremely abbreviated version of the work Nelson is doing, but she is clearly working toward making a difference.

For more information about the work Ashlee Nelson and Sarah Sletten are doing, go to

We thank Ashlee for allowing us to showcase her and the great work she is doing. If you know of a Mayville State graduate who should be in the spotlight, please reach out to Beth Swenson or Hannah Lemer.