Nelsen appointed UTPA’s next president, begins Jan. 1
By Melissa Vasquez
Posted: 11/11/2009
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The University of Texas System Board of Regents confirmed Dr. Robert S. Nelsen as the next president of The University of Texas-Pan American on Wednesday, Nov. 11 in Austin.

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Nelsen, current associate vice president for academic affairs at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (TAMUCC), will become UTPA’s eighth president Jan. 1, 2010.

“I am humbled and honored to be chosen to serve the students, staff, and faculty at The University of Texas-Pan American and the citizens of the Rio Grande Valley,” Nelsen said. “I firmly believe a saying that I have heard several times in my recent trips to the Valley: ‘As South Texas goes, so goes Texas and the nation.’ UT Pan American has become and will continue to be a leading force for growth, economic development and progress in the Valley.”

“The University’s students are superb, as are the faculty and staff. Together, we will work hand in hand with industry and business leaders, educators both at the community college and independent school district levels, and local, state and national elected officials to ensure the future of the Valley and especially the future of our youth,” he added.

Nelsen succeeds Dr. Blandina Cárdenas, who retired in January 2009. Dr. Charles A. Sorber has been serving as interim president since Feb. 16, and will work closely with Dr. Nelsen as he transitions into the presidency.

"Dr. Nelsen possesses the administrative skills and experience necessary for this position, and we are confident he will advance excellence at this important institution," said Regents’ Chairman James R. Huffines. "We would also like to thank Charles Sorber, a veteran academician and administrator who has now successfully served as the chief administrative officer of three University of Texas System academic institutions, for his service to UTPA and the UT System.”

The Board of Regents named Nelsen as the sole finalist for the UTPA presidency on Oct. 12.

Nelsen said he is looking forward to his move to the Edinburg campus, which has an enrollment of more than 18,000 students and is situated on the U.S.-Mexico border.

“In this age of homogenization, to be successful, a university must be unique. The vision for The University of Texas-Pan American must fit its unique location — the Rio Grande Valley. I am excited about moving to the Valley and embracing the wonderful culture there. As I said when I visited, I feel as though I am returning to where I belong,” he said.

As president of UTPA, Nelsen said partnerships — with the local community, local and statewide educational institutions, parents and students, and with faculty and staff — will be the hallmark of his leadership.

“Our task will be to leverage the opportunities that surround us and to make the dreams of our students, faculty and staff reality,” Nelsen said. “I believe that a crucial task for a president, maybe the most crucial task, is building bridges, bridges that our students, faculty and the community will pass over as they create our future.”

Nelsen earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah and his Ph.D. from the Committee on Social Thought at The University of Chicago. His Ph.D. fields of specialization are modern literature, modern philosophy and modern political theory.

Prior to his arrival in 2008 at TAMUCC, where he also is a professor of English, Nelsen worked for 18 years at The University of Texas at Dallas, last serving as vice provost. During his years there, he started the creative writing program and nurtured the development of an arts and humanities curriculum. Nelsen is an accomplished author with numerous publications of fiction, including a novel currently under review by a publisher.

“Prepare. Discover. Transform. — the words that I see over and over on the University’s Web site will guide us as we take each step forward,” Nelsen said.

Update: Nelsen and his wife, Jody, will visit UTPA Nov. 18, 3:30 p.m. at the Student Union Theater for a brief welcome program, coordinated by The University of Texas System to introduce the Nelsen's to the UTPA community. For more information, call 956/381-2100.