Amy Hawn Nelson

UNC Charlotte Urban Institute
Director of Social Research for the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute and the Director of the Institute for Social Capital, Inc.


Amy Hawn Nelson is the Director of Social Research for the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute and the Director of the Institute for Social Capital, Inc., an integrated data system charged with supporting university research and enhancing data-informed decision-making in the Charlotte region. Hawn Nelson is a community engaged researcher generally focusing on education and housing related issues. She has written and presented extensively on the topic of educational equity and is a co-editor of Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow: School Desegregation and Resegregation in Charlotte (Feb. 2015, Harvard Education Press). She is a Charlotte native and proud graduate of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. Prior to joining the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute in 2012, Hawn Nelson served as a teacher and school leader for 11 years. She holds a Ph.D. in Curriculum & Instruction and Masters’ degrees in Teaching and in School Administration. Her research interests include long-term schooling outcomes, community-based school improvement efforts, data-informed decision making, and integrated data systems. She is an active member of the community, serving several civic-based organizations in Charlotte.


Ph.D. curriculum & instruction, urban education. UNC Charlotte, 2010
Masters in school administration, UNC Charlotte, 2010
Masters in art of teaching, Johns Hopkins University, 2003
Bachelors in sociology, Africana studies, N.C. State University, 2001
Bachelors in women's & gender studies, N.C. State University, 2001


K-12 Education, long-term schooling outcomes, data-based decision making, school composition and schooling outcomes, integrated data systems.


    Jan 05, 2017
    As charter school enrollment expands, statistics show they are more segregated than traditional public schools. Are they more effective? Research is inconclusive. A look at charter schools in the Charlotte region and their relationship to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
    Sep 07, 2016
    Around 80,000 students in Mecklenburg County choose to attend a school other than their neighborhood public school. But what might that mean for the caliber of education the students receive? 
    Sep 02, 2015
    Are more Mecklenburg County parents opting for private school over public, or for charters or home schools? UNC Charlotte Urban Institute researchers looked at 20 years of enrollment choices in Mecklenburg.
    Apr 16, 2015
    Misperceptions about public education and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools are common. Scholars Roslyn Mickelson, Stephen S. Smith and Amy Hawn Nelson have researched CMS and school desegregation for decades. 
    Nov 19, 2014
    In CMS and nationally, leadership turnover is a big problem. Changes in superintendents get lots of press, but principal turnover is also high, and principals are a key lever to improving student achievement.
    Feb 26, 2014
    In 1997, when North Carolina launched its school rating system, Charlotte's Shamrock Gardens Elementary  had one of the lowest scores in the state. By 2014, test scores have risen and enrollment is increasing. Parents are volunteering in classrooms staffed by highly effective teachers. How did this dramatic change occur? (Photo: Nancy Pierce)
    Nov 21, 2013
    Much of the publicity about the Common Core has focused on test results. It should be on the changes these new standards bring to curriculum and instruction. We had set the bar too low, and we needed to broaden the teaching methods and concepts offered to students. (Photo: Nancy Pierce)
    Oct 04, 2013
    The Institute for Social Capital's mission is to provide social resources that advance university research and increase the community’s capacity for data-based planning and evaluation. Find out about the ISC's recent activities, new staff and learn about the organization and structure of the institute in this quarterly newsletter.(Photo Wade Bruton)
    Aug 15, 2013
    Last Thursday the community memorialized Julius Chambers. Speakers described him as brilliant. Committed. Humble. Courageous. Unrelenting. A drum major for justice. A fighter for America. A giant among men, though quiet and short in stature. A man who changed the lives of millions of people. (Photo: Charlotte Mecklenburg Library)
    Jun 12, 2013
    In 2007, Shamrock Gardens Elementary in east Charlotte was showing big improvements, and after years of being listed as a school that could be taken over by the state for low performance, it was close to coming off that list. Then suddenly test scores plummeted. What happened? (Photo: Nancy Pierce)