Dr. Robert S. Nelsen was appointed the eighth President of The University of Texas-Pan American (UTPA) in January, 2010. He came to UTPA with a demonstrated commitment to higher education and a distinguished career history of educational leadership and community service.
Nelsen earned his Ph.D. from the Committee on Social Thought at The University of Chicago with his fields of specialization in modern literature, modern philosophy and modern political theory.
He has lived in Texas since 1990, leaving his home state of Montana for career opportunities in academia. Nelsen was raised on a small cattle ranch in the “Big Sky Country” near Madison Valley just outside of Yellowstone Park. Like the majority of students at UTPA, Nelsen faced great financial hardships while seeking to get his degrees. He put himself through college by working as a janitor in the pre-dawn hours before classes and by selling fish hooks and western clothing in the evenings.
Prior to his arrival at UTPA, Nelsen was an administrator at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (TAMUCC) serving as Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs.
Nelsen was also a distinguished faculty member at The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) for almost two decades where he started the creative writing program and nurtured the development of an arts and humanities curriculum. After winning the Chancellor’s Council Award for Outstanding Teaching, he was recruited into the Provost’s Office and eventually served as Vice Provost there.
Nelsen is an accomplished author with numerous publications of fiction in journals which include the Story Quarterly, Other Voices, Chariton Review and Southwest Review. While at UTD, Nelsen completed a collection of short stories, Orphans, Bums and Angels as well as a novel, Spirits Colliding.