Dr. Robert S. Nelsen has been named the sole finalist for the presidency of The University of Texas-Pan American after a unanimous vote by The University of Texas System Board of Regents in Austin Monday, Oct. 12.
Once confirmed, Nelsen, current associate vice president for Academic Affairs at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (TAMUCC), will become UTPA's eighth president. Under state law, university governing boards must name finalists for a presidency at least 21 days before making an appointment.
Prior to the decision, the Board interviewed the four presidential candidates vying for the UTPA leader post.
"The search advisory committee worked diligently to find these exceptional candidates, all of whom possess impressive credentials and experience in administration at leading universities," said Regent Janiece Longoria. "We are confident Dr. Nelsen has the mix of skills that will make him the right
fit to push UT Pan American to the next level of excellence."
Nelsen will succeed Dr. Blandina "Bambi" Cardenas, who retired in January. Currently serving as interim president is Charles A. Sorber, Ph.D., who was appointed in January to lead the campus until a permanent leader was found. Sorber was applauded by the Regents for his role in moving the University forward during the presidential search process.
All candidates had previously visited the Edinburg campus to meet with members of the UTPA community.
Nelsen was the final candidate to visit UTPA on Sept. 23 where he met with various UTPA constituencies including students, faculty and staff.
During an open forum, he described his upbringing in poverty-level conditions on a ranch in Montana and how being a first-generation college student, who worked as a janitor while in college, has motivated him to want to lead the University and see those in similar circumstances succeed.
"Why do I want this job? I want to discover the future with you for this University. I am passionate about students — and getting them to succeed. I want to pay back. I don't want people to leave this Valley; I want them to stay. But I want them to have the education that they can. I want the next generation to not have to be the first generation over and over and that is a possibility," he said.
Nelsen, who is also a professor of English at TAMUCC, 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 were in modern literature, modern philosophy and modern political theory.
Prior to his arrival at TAMUCC in 2008, 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 arts and humanities curriculum and activities. Nelsen is also an accomplished author with numerous publications of fiction including a novel.