Dr. Leslie R. Nelson

Assistant Professor


Office Location
Faculty Office North (47) 22-K

Office Telephone

Email Address




  • Introduction to the Communication Studies Major (COMS 100) 
  • Interpersonal Communication (COMS 211)  
  • Qualitative Research Methods in Communication Studies (COMS 313) 
  • Intergroup Communication (COMS 320) 
  • Gender and Communication (COMS 421) 
  • Family Communication (COMS 428) 
  • The Dark Side of Interpersonal Communication (COMS 430) 
  • Undergraduate Seminar (COMS 460) 
  • Senior Project (COMS 461) 
  • Creativity 101 (HNRS 299) 


  • Ph.D. University of Missouri, 2018
  • M.A. University of Missouri, 2014
  • B.A. University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2012


Dr. Leslie R. Nelson (she/her/hers) joined the Communication Studies faculty at Cal Poly in 2018. Her research examines how communication affects and reflects identity, sense-making, and well-being in diverse family forms. She has explored these topics in several contexts, including foster families, (transracial) adoptive families, Black families, interfaith families, sexual and gender minority members' family relationships, and mother-daughter relationships. These studies appear in journals such as Communication MonographsCommunication Research, Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, Journal of Family Communication, Western Journal of Communication, Communication Quarterly, Qualitative Research Reports in Communication, and Journal of Family Theory & Review. She also co-authored a book, titled Growing Up Fast and Slow: Young Adults Reflect on Adulthood in Contemporary America. Dr. Nelson is currently serving as Co-Editor of a Special Issue in the Journal of Family Communication, titled: “Communication in Black Families.”

Dr. Nelson is equally devoted to her pedagogy. Dr. Nelson believes recognizing and appreciating diverse perspectives is imperative to the critical thinking process. As such, she seeks to establish an open and inclusive learning environment, whereby students can express their ideas freely while being mindful of identity-based differences. Through both critical and creative pursuits in Dr. Nelson’s classes, students reflect on communication in their relationships, how social identities affect and reflect communication, and how communication can be harnessed and utilized for positive social change. Dr. Nelson was the recipient of the Loren Reid Outstanding Graduate Student Teacher Award in 2014 and 2017 at the University of Missouri, where she also obtained a certified minor in College Teaching. In 2019, Dr. Nelson was the recipient of two departmental awards at Cal Poly: Outstanding Educator in GE Courses and Faculty Role Model of the Year. In 2020, she was the recipient of two Terrance Harris Mentorship awards at Cal Poly and was the recipient of the COMS Student Success Award. In 2021, Dr. Nelson was nominated for a President’s Diversity Award, a Cal Poly Community Service Award, and the CLA Early Career Award in Teaching. Dr. Nelson currently teaches courses on family communication, interpersonal communication, the dark side of interpersonal communication, intergroup communication, gender and communication, and creativity.  

In her spare time, Dr. Nelson enjoys skiing, biking, beach walks, traveling, cooking, reading, attending concerts, and entertaining her dog, Piper.





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