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Robert. S. Nelsen, Ph.D., former President of The University of Texas-Pan American, addressing a gathering at the Student Union Building on Thursday, October 24, 2013.

Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR

The California State University (CSU) Board of Trustees on Wednesday, March 25, appointed former University of Texas-Pan American President Robert. S. Nelsen, Ph.D., as President of California State University, Sacramento (officially known as “Sacramento State”). He will assume leadership of the university in July 2015. “Sacramento State has truly become a destination campus where students receive a transformative educational experience that prepares them for success in the future,” said Nelsen. “The opportunity to work alongside the many dedicated faculty and staff who guide students along that journey and prepare them for achievements beyond the classroom is incredibly exciting.” Nelsen will become the eighth permanent president of Sacramento State and succeeds Alexander González, who will retire at the end of the academic year after 12 years as president. “Dr. Robert Nelsen is an ambitious and visionary leader who will successfully build on the foundation President González has established at Sacramento State,” said CSU Trustee Steve Glazer, chair of the Sacramento State Presidential Search Committee. “He has extensive experience leading a large, diverse university and a long history of always putting students first.” Pedro Reyes, Ph.D., Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs for the UT System, congratulated Nelsen on the announcement, citing the soon-to-be former UTPA president long-lasting impact in Texas. “Dr. Nelsen served The University of Texas System with great distinction and we will miss his leadership and guidance,” said Reyes. “He embraced the culturally rich environment of the Rio Grande Valley as president of UT Pan American, and his passion and dedication for students and faculty and their success are without comparison.” Nelsen’s importance and influence in Edinburg also was recognized last fall with a proclamation in his honor unanimously approved by the Edinburg City Council. “Jody and I have loved everything about the Rio Grande Valley, and it will be very hard to leave this magical place,” Nelsen said. “But we are excited to embark on a new adventure in California, and we will take all of you with us in our hearts. Somos para siempre familia.”

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Dr. Robert Nelsen, former president of The University of Texas-Pan American, is named as the new leader of Sacramento State in California

By JENNIFER BERGHOM

The California State University (CSU) Board of Trustees on Wednesday, March 25, appointed former University of Texas-Pan American president Robert. S. Nelsen, Ph.D., as president of California State University, Sacramento (officially known as “Sacramento State”).

He will assume leadership of the university in July 2015.

“Sacramento State has truly become a destination campus where students receive a transformative educational experience that prepares them for success in the future,” said Nelsen. “The opportunity to work alongside the many dedicated faculty and staff who guide students along that journey and prepare them for achievements beyond the classroom is incredibly exciting.”

Nelsen will become the eighth permanent president of Sacramento State and succeeds Alexander González, who will retire at the end of the academic year after 12 years as president.

“Dr. Robert Nelsen is an ambitious and visionary leader who will successfully build on the foundation President González has established at Sacramento State,” said CSU Trustee Steve Glazer, chair of the Sacramento State Presidential Search Committee. “He has extensive experience leading a large, diverse university and a long history of always putting students first.”

Pedro Reyes, Ph.D., Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs for the UT System, congratulated Nelsen on the announcement, citing the soon-to-be former UTPA president long-lasting impact in Texas.

“Dr. Nelsen served The University of Texas System with great distinction and we will miss his leadership and guidance,” said Reyes. “He embraced the culturally rich environment of the Rio Grande Valley as president of UT Pan American, and his passion and dedication for students and faculty and their success are without comparison.”

“Jody and I have loved everything about the Rio Grande Valley, and it will be very hard to leave this magical place,” Nelsen said. “But we are excited to embark on a new adventure in California, and we will take all of you with us in our hearts. Somos para siempre familia.”

California State University (CSU) is the largest system of senior higher education in the country, with 23 campuses, more than 460,000 students and 47,000 faculty and staff.

The CSU campus in Sacramento is home to 29,349 students and more than 200,000 graduates.

Under the leadership of Nelsen (2010-2014), the UT-Pan American student body grew to more than 21,000; total enrollment increased by 9.4 percent, first-time, full-time freshmen increased by 32.4 percent and first-time entering transfer students topped 35.6 percent.

The six-year graduation rates increased by 9.8 percent and the annual freshman retention rate rose to 76.1 percent. In addition, athletics joined the Western Athletic Conference, and UT-Pan American was named “College of the Year” by the National Hispanic Institute for 2014.

Nelsen also helped move the overall academic classification of UT-Pan American to “doctoral serving university.”

Nelsen’s importance and influence in Edinburg also was recognized last fall with a proclamation in his honor unanimously approved by the Edinburg City Council.

The public praise, which was adopted by the city council on Tuesday, September 16, follows:

WHEREAS, Robert S. Nelsen was raised on a small cattle ranch in the rugged “Big Sky Country” of Montana. He earned B.A. and M.A. degrees in Political Science from Brigham Young University and his Ph.D. from the University ofChicago’s Committee on Social Thought; and

WHEREAS, Dr. Robert S. Nelsen was selected by the University of Texas System Board of Regents on November 11, 2009, to be The University of Texas-Pan American’s (UTPA) eighth (now last) president. Dr. Nelsen came to the university from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christ, where he had served as Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs; and

WHEREAS, Dr. Robert S. Nelsen has embraced the culturally-rich Rio Grande Valley and its people as his own since arriving in Edinburg on January 1, 2010, to take the reins of The University of Texas-Pan American, the fifth-largest component of the prestigious University of Texas System; and

WHEREAS, President Nelsen set a course early on for UT-Pan American that in 2013 culminated in the creation of a new bicultural, bilingual, bi-literate University of Texas. By act of the 83rd Texas Legislature, The University of Texas-Pan American will cease to exist in 2015, giving rise to The University of Texas- Rio Grande Valley, complete with its own medical school, that will encompass all of the talent, assets and resources of UT-Pan American, The University of Texas at Brownsville and the multi-campus UT Regional Academic Health Center; and

WHEREAS, President Nelsen achieved significant accomplishments for UTPA. He improved the annual financial condition of the university, despite a 5 percent, and then a subsequent additional 17.76 percent budget cut in state appropriations from FY 2010 to FY 2012. Through community engagement and marketing strategies, he changed the perception of the university by the community from a negative 47 percent to a positive 76 percent. In Fall 2013, enrollment surpassed 20,000 for the first time in the university’s history. Six-year graduation rates have increased from 38.7 percent in 2009 to 46.4 percent; and,

WHEREAS, President Nelsen provided oversight to planning and construction of new buildings and major renovations, stabilized the budget for the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics that for years had operated from a negative financial position, and moved Bronc Athletics from NCAA Division I independent status to membership in the Western Athletic Conference; and,

WHEREAS, Dr. Nelsen received many accolades for his many achievements, such as UTPA being named “College of the Year” by the National Hispanic Institute at its Annual Meeting in San Antonio (November 2013). Excelencia in Education named UT-Pan American’s Cooperative Pharmacy Program (CPP) as America’s top program for increasing achievements for Latino students at the graduate level (October 1,2013); and

WHEREAS, President Nelsen was presented the Golden Eagle Award by the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in 2014; Named “Man of the Year” by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce in 2013; bestowed the “Good Samaritan Community Services Award” by Good Samaritan Community Services of Pharr in 2013; earned the Edinburg Rotary Leadership Award in 2011; received the Literacy Champion Award, South Texas Literacy Coalition in 2011; and

WHEREAS, President Nelsen has also served the public in other capacities, such as The North American Advanced Manufacturing Research and Education Initiative, Rio Grande Valley, Texas, serving as Chair; the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, State Representative; and Executive Committee, Council of Public University Presidents and Chancellors, Austin, Vice Chair in 2013.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, RICHARD H. GARCÍA, MAYOR OF THE CITY OF EDINBURG, TEXAS: By the power vested in me by law, do hereby recognize DR. ROBERT S. NELSEN for his years of leadership and foresight and the legacy of his vision for The University of Texas-Pan American.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and cased the seal of the City of Edinburg, Texas a Municipal Corporation, to be affixed on this the 16th day of September, 2014.

(David A. Díaz contributed to this article.)

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