About Debra Nelson
Debra Nelson is President of Elevate Communications, a professional development and communication services firm that provides customized training and communication solutions in diversity, equity, and inclusion, leadership and organizational development, and program and performance management. Prior to founding Elevate, Debra held executive corporate positions in industries spanning media, higher education, automotive manufacturing, and gaming and hospitality.
Debra consults, designs and facilitates services for large and small organizations. She is a certified personal development coach authorized by Korn Ferry to administer and analyze the Emotional Social Competency Inventory (ESCI-360 assessment tool). Additionally, Debra is a certified facilitator and coach in The Four Stages of Psychological Safety™ training delivery and survey administration. While a regular contributor to Pivot magazine, she authored articles about corporate and professional development matters.
As a former vice president at MGM Resorts International, Debra is credited with steering the diversity initiative to national prominence and helping increase revenue and profitability. She has held executive appointments at DaimlerChrysler, Mercedes-Benz companies, The University of Alabama System, and in radio and television. Debra is the former Director and Head of Communication at Brasfield & Gorrie, a leading construction company based in Birmingham, Alabama.
Social and Civic Experience
As board chair of the Urban Chamber of Commerce in Las Vegas, Nevada, Debra led negotiations that resulted in a partnership with the City of Las Vegas for the operations of a multi-million-dollar business incubator. She created the Diversity Professionals Network as a platform for sharing and promoting DEI best practices in the gaming industry. Additionally, she founded the Women’s Leadership Conference in Nevada, an annual national event that promotes the personal and professional development of women leaders.
Civic Recognition and Volunteerism
Debra was recognized as one of the nation’s leading diversity and inclusion practitioners by Black Enterprise, DiversityInc, Savoy, and Global Gaming Business magazines. Automotive journalists named her “Woman of the Year” for impacting diversity and inclusion in the automotive industry. She is an inductee of the Nevada Women’s Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame, where she holds its highest honor, the Athena Award for Leadership. Among many other accolades, she received the “Woman of Distinction” award from the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), Las Vegas Chapter. In 2020, she became the first woman and first African American to receive the Leadership Award from the Engineering Council of Birmingham. Also, she was named an Outstanding Alumna of the College of Communication and Information Sciences at The University of Alabama (UA). The Birmingham Business Journal named her among the “Top Birmingham Women” in 2021.
Debra currently serves on the boards of Noland Health Services, Inc., WBHM Public Radio, and the Board of Visitors for the College of Communication and Information Sciences at UA, where she is a former board chairperson. She is also a member of the President’s Cabinet at UA. Previously, she served on the boards of the College of Southern Nevada Foundation, Boys & Girls Club of Las Vegas, William Patterson University Foundation, and the Las Vegas Urban League. She is a former member of the Executive Leadership Council (ELC). Today Debra is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated and the Birmingham (AL) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated, where she is a past vice president. She is a graduate of Leadership Las Vegas and Leadership Birmingham.
Panelist Profile | Q&A with Debra
What brings you back? – AND/OR - What are you looking forward to at this year’s Energy Summit (aside from your session)? I am enthused about the topics that will be explored, especially those concerning diversity, equity, and inclusion.
What made you decide to join us at this 34th Annual Energy Summit conference to participate on this panel?
It is exciting that the organizers have incorporated DEI topics on the agenda. I am always happy to share my knowledge and perspectives on this topic.
Why do you think your panel topic is critical in the oil and natural gas industry at this time?
Given today’s business environment, organizations must factor culture and people processes more strategically in their planning. Also, it is important for the oil and natural gas industry to have a meaningful footprint in this DEI space.
How would you recommend that someone stays current on these issues, if they are interested or want to know more? There are bountiful resources available. I encourage individuals to research and read and enlist the support of subject matter experts to help develop and grow diversity and inclusion programs.
Any great books or binge-worthy shows to recommend?
I recommend a book by Steven Covey, The 8th Habit. It was one of the first books I read upon beginning my professional journey in diversity and inclusion
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