Bachelor, Brigham Young University, 1978. Master of Arts in Political Science, Brigham Young University, 1979. Doctor of Philosophy, University Chicago, 1989.
He assumed leadership of the university on July 1, 2015. Prior to becoming president of CSUS, he was serving as special adviser to the University of Texas System"s Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. Before taking on this position, Nelsen served as the eighth President of the University of Texas–Pan American from January 2010 to August 2014.
Prior to this, Nelsen was an associate vice president for academic affairs and professor of English at Texas Agricultural and Mechanical University–Corpus Christi.
Earlier, Nelsen was a faculty member at the University of Texas at Dallas. He served as the speaker of the Faculty and chaired the University of Texas System Faculty Advisory Council.
After winning the Chancellor’s Council Award for Outstanding Teaching, he was recruited into the Provost" General’ s Office and served as vice provost there. Nelsen is an author of fiction in journals which include the Story Quarterly, Other Voices, Chariton Review, and Southwest Review.
Nelsen was born in Brigham City, Utah and raised in Montana near Madison Valley.
He earned bachelor and master"s degrees in political science from Brigham Young University and a Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Chicago, specializing in modern literature, modern philosophy, and modern political theory. Pushcart Prize, Best of the Small Presses: Distinguished Stories Award, 1991: "Ronnie Big Wolf Tooth" and "Two Points of a Blue Star".
Married Joellyn Hawkins, February 14, 1975. 1 child, Robert Seth.