Dr. Robert S. Nelsen is the eighth President of The University of Texas-Pan American. Now in his third year of service, he comes to UTPA with a demonstrated commitment to higher education and a distinguished career in educational leadership and community service.
He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science from Brigham Young University and his Ph.D. from the Committee on Social Thought at The University of Chicago. His Ph.D. fields of specialization were modern literature, modern philosophy, and modern political theory.
Nelsen was raised on a small cattle ranch in the "Big Sky Country" of Montana 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 predawn hours before classes and by selling fishhooks and western clothing in the evenings.
Nelsen has lived in Texas since 1990. Prior to his arrival at UTPA, he was an Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (TAMUCC). He was responsible for oversight of the Academic Affair's budget preparation, the implementation of the University’s Business Incubator, and the Center for Academic Athletic Success, and other NCAA related matters. In addition, he was a professor of English at TAMUCC.
Before working at TAMUCC, Nelsen was 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. For many years, he served as the Speaker of the Faculty at UTD, and he also chaired the UT System Faculty Advisory Council for two terms. After winning the Chancellor’s Council Award for Outstanding Teaching, he was recruited into the Provost's Office and 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.