Learn About Our Center

Our Mission

The Melisa Nellesen Center for Autism at Utah Valley University improves the quality of life for those living and working with Autism Spectrum Disorder by providing education and training to professionals, providing evidence-based services and education, and fostering a community of belonging.


  1. The MNCA will support autism trainings for school districts and educators to better serve this unique population and to further support our UVU students who are entering the field.
  2. The MNCA will provide service coordination/case management and resource support for Autism Spectrum Disorder.
  3. The MNCA will provide trainings to UVU, community partners, educators, families with individuals with an ASD, and to individuals with ASD.
  4. The MNCA will provide transition programming for current and potential UVU students with an ASD.
  5. The MNCA will solicit university, community, and parent input to support ongoing effective operations and partnerships.
  6. The MNCA will provide engaged learning activities to promote awareness and action for autism in the community.

Autism Center Exterior


Portrait of Jane Carlson

Jane Carlson


Director of the Melisa Nellesen Center for Autism



MS: 311

Portrait of Laurie Bowen

Laurie Bowen


Associate Director of Community Outreach, Melisa Nellesen Center for Autism



MS: 311

Portrait of Alex Phillips

Alex Phillips

Assistant Director - Major Gifts- School of Edu.



MS: 126


Active Boards

Professional Advisory

The National Advisory Council to the Melisa Nellesen Center for Autism provides consultation, advocacy, and support for the Melisa Nellesen Center for Autism at UVU through ongoing encouragement and development of its programs. The Advisory Council advocates sound, evidence-based program development for the Center and promotes the Center within the region, state, and nation. The Advisory Council helps connect students, faculty and Center employees to the autism community at large.

Local Advisory Board

The Melisa Nellesen Center for Autism Advisory Board is a 100% giving board dedicated to improving the quality of life for those living and working with Autism Spectrum Disorder by preparing students for professional careers in the field, providing evidence-based services and education, and fostering a community of belonging.


Casey Baugh



Chelsea Baugh



Jake Fink


Holly Mero-Bench



Janae Moss



Keith Nellesen



Melisa Nellesen



Cheryl Smith



Parent Advisory Group

We want to change the way autism is perceived. We will help pave the way for our kids to reach their potential. We invite others to recognize the great things available through autism.


  • We will educate and promote awareness. We can teach many about autism, including our children, other parents, government, local leaders, educators, service and therapeutic professionals, and more.
  • We will recommend customizing services to the individual in political, educational, medical, and other areas. Our approach will focus on strengths.
  • We seek to create a safe and respectful environment in our community. A place for our children, families, and neighbors built on a foundation of awareness, acceptance, and understanding. We recognize the key and significant role of education and the school environment.
  • We desire to increase positive school experiences, free from bullying, where there is ready access to available and needed supports. We believe education should include a focus on strength and competency-based learning options.


  • Building the Community
  • Awareness and Acceptance-educating the public about autism
  • Focus on strengths-helping them be as productive and happy as possible in society
  • Adequate and Appropriate Services
  • Ensuring services are available throughout the entire lifespan at all ability levels
  • Customization and serving the individual
  • Effective Advocacy with educators, government, and professionals
  • Funding-tax dollars need to be dedicated to autism supports
UVU Art Show

Our Mission

To establish an environment of autism acceptance, awareness, and support for our children, families and neighbors. To effectively advocate for their needs and ensure access to adequate and appropriate services.

Our Values

  • Strengths Based
  • Family Focused
  • Individualized Approach
  • Customized Support

Parent Advisory Group Members

We are parents, siblings, and/or children of someone diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. We have been schooled in autism by living with it every day for a collective 282 years.

Our children have taught us that success can be redefined. We have developed great tenacity by not giving up. Many of us have tried almost everything in an effort to help our children. Our varied backgrounds provide us with skills that have helped us navigate the numerous services, educational needs and situations we have encountered because of autism. We've learned much that can be shared.


Together, we have experience on what is and is not available and what is and is not helpful for our children and others. We have learned how to reach out and communicate about what we need and what the autism community needs to be successful.

We can make things happen.

The Gibson Family
The Gibson Family
Chris Wood
Tiffany Strong and family
Jenni and Ben Moulton
Emily Ybarra
Hakes Family
Santiago Family


1000 West 800 South

Orem, UT 84058

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Contact Us

[email protected]