STAFF ASSOCIATE

Dan Nelson, PhD, LP

Dan is a psychologist who has worked as an educator, administrator, and consultant in higher education. As a psychology professor, he studies the development of college students as well as ways of improving student learning in college classrooms. He has taught undergraduate and graduate psychology and education courses at religiously affiliated institutions (Catholic and Protestant), and currently teaches psychology courses at St. Olaf College (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America).  The many courses he has taught include personality, statistics, psychological testing, research methods, and church-psychology integration.  He served an educational institution as coordinator of assessment for eleven years, monitoring and promoting student growth in areas such as general and domain-specific content knowledge, student investment and involvement, critical thinking, moral judgment development, and Bible content knowledge.  This research assisted the institution in identifying characteristics of students most likely to graduate and most likely to need remedial assistance, and helped improve the institution’s retention rates.  Dan has consulted and served on the thesis and dissertation committees of many young scholars, especially focusing on the elements of research methodology and statistics.  In his consulting work with other agencies, he has developed and implemented measures of customer satisfaction and importance, and utilization-focused feedback from multiple constituent groups.  


Dan earned his Ph.D. in Educational Psychology at the University of Minnesota (U of M), and his M.A. in Counseling Psychology at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota.  His doctoral coursework emphasized the areas of personality, learning and cognition, and statistics.  While at the U of M, Dan conducted research with James Rest and the Center for the Study of Ethical Development’s Defining Issues Test (DIT), a leading inventory for measuring moral judgment development.  His research and publications helped document the development of more sensitive and effective scales for measuring moral judgment growth, and modeled multiple methods for investigating this growth.  His research in this area documented longitudinal growth in students at Christian colleges as well as the association between higher stages of moral judgment and greater knowledge of Biblical content.   


Dan’s work at LeaderWise primarily involves candidate assessment, with expertise in using multiple inventories.  His research with clergy MMPI-2 data provides agency-specific norms that are used alongside existing norms for seminary students.  His utilization-focused research at LeaderWise has helped develop practices for interpreting clergy-specific profiles, including understanding elevated scores, addictive/compulsive behaviors, sexual misconduct, under-reporting, and validity configurations.  Dan also implemented a cross-denominational inventory measuring the loneliness levels of more than 500 clergy, and the LeaderWise team is using the results to develop specific intervention approaches for those clergy who are most likely to report experiencing its effects.


Dan was raised in a religiously centered family — a pastor’s home.  He demonstrates a lifelong commitment to integrating psychological and spiritual health and a commitment to the wellbeing of clergy and their families.  Dan and his wife are parents to two adult children and a grandson. He enjoys time with his family, working in nature, home remodeling, and reading.

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