Jennifer Yuh Nelson

Honorary Degrees


California State University, Long Beach

Jennifer Yuh Nelson was born in South Korea and immigrated to the United States with her parents and two sisters when she was four years old. Interested in art, Ms. Nelson followed her sisters to California State University, Long Beach, where she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration. She then followed her sisters into the animation industry, at first working as a cleanup artist at Jetlag Productions.

Following a brief stint at Hanna-Barbera Productions on “The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest" for Cartoon Network, she was later hired as a storyboard artist on HBO's Spawn series in 1997. In 1998, Ms. Nelson joined DreamWorks Animation as a storyboard artist, where she worked on “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron", “Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas", and “Madagascar".

As a fan of martial arts movies, she asked to work on the first Kung Fu Panda film, where she served as head of story and director of the opening hand-drawn dream sequence. After the release of “Kung Fu Panda", DWA's CEO approached her about directing “Kung Fu Panda 2". The film proved a major critical and international box office success, making it the highest-grossing film ever directed by a woman, for two years. Ms. Nelson also held the record for highest-grossing film by a solo female director for six years.

Ms. Nelson was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film and won the Annie Award for Best Directing in a Feature Production. She returned to co-direct “Kung Fu Panda 3", which was released in 2016. In 2018, Ms. Nelson made her live action directorial debut with an adaptation of Alexandra Bracken's The Darkest Minds for 20th Century Fox. She is currently the supervising director on the second and third seasons of “Love, Death & Robots" for Netflix. Ms. Nelson has won two consecutive Emmy Awards for her work on the series.

In recognition of her talented work in the animation industry and record-breaking box office success, the Board of Trustees of the California State University and the California State University, Long Beach are proud to confer upon Jennifer Yuh Nelson the honorary degree of Doctor of Fine Arts.