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Shaun Nelms Appointed UofR’s Vice President for Community Partnerships


Shaun Nelms

Dr. Shaun Nelms will serve as Vice President for Community Partnerships with the University of Rochester (UofR).


Nelms currently serves at East Highschool as superintendent of the East Educational Partnership Organization (EPO) with UofR.

He takes over his new role as Vice President for Community Partnerships on July 1.

The position was created by UofR President Sarah Mangelsdorf to give new structure to the University’s wide-ranging work with local and national partners.

Nelms will be responsible for developing an actionable plan for cultivating and stewarding productive collaborations in support of the University’s new strategic plan.

Mangelsdorf said Nelms is a visionary leader who has led a revolutionary partnership that could be a model for K–12 transformation for the past eight years.

“His extraordinary work at East High School and the Warner School of Education has inspired us to think more broadly about the role innovative partnerships can play at the University level. If we are to have the greatest impact we can—in Rochester and around the world—we must work together with other academic institutions, with community organizations, and the corporate sector in a more strategic and organized way.”

Nelms said his goal now is to join the University of Rochester to establish the University as a leader in community partnership and engagement; to cultivate greater and stronger meaningful relationships in the City of Rochester, across Monroe County, and beyond.

“In working with the University of Rochester and its Warner School, we have been able to provide scholars at East real opportunities to succeed, a safe environment to grow, and we’ve been given the support and resources to innovate in spaces where despair was more often greater than hope,” Nelms said. “It has been a true privilege to work alongside East EPO educators, parents, and community members for the past eight years to rebuild the foundation of a great school.”

“As the University continues to put their full support behind the model, I am most proud that these public school students have been given what they deserve, which are equitable opportunities that allow them to reach their full potential.” I’m thrilled to support the University’s strategic commitment to furthering the economic, educational, social, and cultural partnerships that build sustained and mutually beneficial engagement and a thriving community for all.”

As East EPO superintendent, Nelms has led a distinctive educational partnership model between East High School—a Rochester City School District (RCSD) school—and the University of Rochester. The partnership is credited for it's success, serving as a model for academic and cultural transformation in urban K–12 education.

Succeeding Nelms as East EPO superintendent will be longtime RCSD teacher and administrator and current East EPO principal Marlene Blocker. Blocker’s appointment is also effective July 1.

“Marlene has served this community for over 30 years and has a proven track record of success,” says Nelms. “She is integral in leading and supporting the school transformation process at East. Under her leadership, East has become a beacon of hope in Rochester, and this work would not have been done without Marlene’s focus on obtaining results through systems of collaboration and results-driven accountability. Marlene’s appointment creates consistency for families, scholars and staff.”

As part of the EPO leadership team from the beginning, Nelms says Blocker was instrumental in making the school’s transformative change a reality.

Nelms will report directly to Mangelsdorf and partner with the provost for community-based learning opportunities and research, including those at the Center for Urban Education Success (CUES), which aims to support the success of K–12 urban schools in Rochester and beyond by sharing findings among researchers and practitioners in urban education and creating models that can be adapted in other school districts across the country.

Nelms will continue to serve as the William & Sheila Konar Director of CUES and as a clinical professor of educational leadership at the Warner School.

“Shaun is one of Rochester’s most respected and thoughtful community leaders because of this leadership and it’s natural that in his new role as vice president for community partnerships he will be able to continue advocating for East while establishing and promoting greater community engagement between the University and Rochester,” said Warner School Dean Sarah Peyre.

The university says under Nelms’s leadership, the EPO model showed great success and addressed disparities in urban education to change student outcomes, while surpassing the goal to double the graduation rate of East students. Since 2015, the four-year graduation rate increased from 33 to 85 percent, the attendance rate grew from 77 to 90 percent, and the drop-out rate declined from 41 to 15 percent.

As superintendent of East Upper and Lower schools, Nelms also expanded its Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs to include pathways in culinary arts, information technology, computer technology, biomedical health sciences, business and computer essentials, precision optics, teaching and learning and vision care.

The New York State Education Department extended the EPO through 2025, in 2021.

“I’m thrilled to support the University’s strategic commitment to furthering the economic, educational, social, and cultural partnerships that build sustained and mutually beneficial engagement and a thriving community for all,” Nelms said.

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