Haley Nelson is originally from Chicago, Illinois. In 2021, she received a dual undergraduate degree in comparative politics and in Russian, Eurasia, and Eastern European Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, with a minor in Turkish studies. She was a FLAS fellow and a Boren scholar in her undergrad, studying Turkish for both programs. She was also awarded the Yaro Skalnik Best Student Essay Award for her paper on energy security in Baku. Her focus in her graduate studies are security issues and energy security in the South Caucasus region, along with Turkish and Russian military strategy and technology.