Tragedy to triumph: Auburn student takes the stage after accident

Published: November 25, 2019
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Auburn University student Anne Nelson has a story of tragedy turned to triumph.

June 23, 2016, is the day Nelson was in a car crash that left her not being able to feel or move her legs. She had returned to her hometown of Madison, Alabama, after her first year at Auburn and was riding around with two hometown friends. She was in the back seat when the driver lost control of the car and smashed into a concrete culvert.

Nelson, a nursing major and now completed dance minor, knew immediately that something was wrong. Her spine was dislocated and fractured, and she had broken her right arm in two places. However, she was determined to walk and dance again.

Nelson called a meeting with Associate Theatre Professor Adrienne Wilson to discuss her returning to dance before the start of the spring 2017 semester. Wilson, who cast Nelson in a spring concert and taught her dance her freshman year, was curious if she would return to Auburn or to dance at all.

“Her amazing, beautiful spirit hadn’t changed at all,” said Wilson. “Most people would be in a different place. Not Anne.”

Together, Wilson and Nelson created dances and assignments that had never been done at Auburn.

With the help and encouragement of the Auburn Family, Nelson earned a solo show for the spring 2018 season. She worked hard with her professors and instructors to adapt choreography and learned a new style of dancing that involves the performer being suspended in the air on fabric lines called aerial skills. Senior Theater Lecturer Jeri Dickey is a certified instructor on the skill and, along with Wilson, played a role in giving Nelson opportunities to discover her unique dance journey.

“The faculty at Auburn have been exceptionally encouraging to me in many of my endeavors here at Auburn and beyond,” said Nelson. “My dance teachers have encouraged me to participate and pursue styles of dance that are very challenging for me since my injury.”

Currently in Auburn’s nursing school, Nelson was inspired to pursue a job in the medical field from a young age.

“I was always fascinated with discovering, no matter what I was discovering,” said Nelson. “Once I took anatomy, I fell in love with a burning desire to learn and know everything I could about the human body.”

She has discovered that there are connections between her nursing major and dance minor.

“I see the most connections between the two when we learn about any type of musculoskeletal content,” said Nelson. “But, I also made some very interesting connections when we learned about the different electrolytes and their function in the body.”

She has also established that the problem-solving skills involved in dancing are in nursing as well and believes that it is one of the foundational skills in both fields.

Upon graduation in May 2021, Nelson would like to receive her nursing license, and possibly pursue the dance injury program at the Harkness Center at New York University. She would also potentially like to further her education in the medical field.

“My book is still open,” said Nelson. “I still continue to progress, so that to me says my pages remain blank.”

The College of Liberal Arts is the intellectual heart of the university and one of the largest colleges on Auburn's campus. The College continues its long tradition of quality education, instruction, and outreach in a number of outstanding departments. The College of Liberal Arts is composed of the School of Communication and Journalism, the University College, and twelve departments which are divided into four academic areas: fine arts, humanities, communications, and social sciences. Our graduates hold a strong record of industry employment and/or acceptance into graduate schools and training programs, both here and abroad.