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Dr. Nelson teaches in the area of theatre education, and supervises the field work of students pursuing Massachusetts licensure as teachers of Performing Arts.

Bethany Nelson teaches in the areas of theatre education, playmaking, and multicultural education at the graduate and undergraduate levels. She has taught drama and theatre K-12 in urban, suburban, and rural settings, and her research interests are focused on using Applied Drama and Theatre for meeting best practice in multicultural education with at-risk urban youth.

Research on the effects of in-role drama, process drama, and playmaking are published in Youth Theatre Journal, Drama Australia Journal, Drama Research: international journal of drama-in-education and Research in Drama Education Journal: the journal of applied theatre. She regularly presents workshops and papers at national and international conferences and is a contributor to Key concepts in Theatre/Drama Education (2010), an international textbook on the state of the field edited by Shifra Schonmann.

Watch Bethany Nelson talk about her work



B.S., Emerson College
M.Ed., Harvard University
Ph.D., The University of Warwick

Areas of Expertise

  • Pedagogy
  • Theater


"Opening Doors: Drama As Culturally Relevant Pedagogy," (2004). Drama Australia Journal, Vol. 29, no. 1, 2005, pp. 51-62


"Beyond Belonging: The Relationship Between Community and Power for Urban Students of Color," (2009). Drama Research: international journal of drama in education, 1, 60-74.


Power and Community in Drama, (2011). in Key concepts in Theatre/Drama Education, S. Schonmann, ed., Sense Publisher, Rotterdam.


"I Made Myself: Playmaking as a Pedagogy of Change with Urban Youth" (2011). Research in Drama Education Journal: the journal of applied theatre, Vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 157-172.


"Drama, Community and Achievement: Together I'm Someone," (2013). J. Neelands and B. Nelson, in How Drama Activates Learning: Contemporary Research and Practice, Anderson, M. and Dunn, J. eds., Bloomsbury Press, Sydney, Australia.


"The Legacy of Ludlow: Exploring Labor Dynamics with Urban Youth" (2013). Youth Theatre Journal, Vol. 27, no. 1, pp. 74-86.


Global & Civic Engagement

She is currently working with urban high school students from Greater Boston through EmersonTHEATRE and the Emerson PATHWAYS program, using playmaking as a tool for helping students develop performance and advocacy skills.


Awards & Honors

ATHE/KCACTF Prize for Innovative Teaching


Helaine and Stanley Miller Award for Excellence in Teaching


Leonidas Nickole Theatre Educator of the Year Award for the New England Theatre Conference


Emerson College: Distinguished Alumni of the Year