Feb 16, 2022
James K. Nelson, Ph.D., P.E. | Assoc Vice Chancell
RELLIS Academic Alliance

Dr. James K. Nelson received a Bachelor of Civil Engineering degree from the University of Dayton in 1974. He received the Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in civil engineering from the University of Houston. During his graduate study, Dr. Nelson specialized in structural engineering. He is a registered professional engineer in three states, a Chartered Engineer in the United Kingdom, and a fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers. He is also a member of the American Society for Engineering Education and the SAFE Association.
Prior to receiving his Ph.D. in 1983, Dr. Nelson worked as a design engineer in industry and taught as a lecturer at the University of Houston and Texas A&M University at Galveston. In industry he was primarily involved in design of floating and fixed structures for the offshore petroleum industry. After receiving his Ph.D., Dr. Nelson joined the civil engineering faculty at Texas A&M University. He joined the civil engineering faculty at Clemson University in 1989 as Program Director and founder of the Clemson University Graduate Engineering Programs at The Citadel and became Chair of Civil Engineering in 1998. While at Clemson he received the Award for Faculty Excellence.
In July 2002, Dr. Nelson joined the faculty at Western Michigan University as Chair of Civil and Construction Engineering. At Western Michigan he started the civil engineering undergraduate and graduate degree programs and also chaired the Departments of Materials Science and Engineering and Industrial Design. In May 2005 he joined the faculty at The University of Texas at Tyler. At UT Tyler he was the founding chair of the Department of Civil Engineering and instituted the bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. In 2006 he became the Dean of Engineering. While serving as Dean, enrollments in the college grew over 250 percent. He returned to Texas A&M in January 2016 and currently serves as Associate Vice Chancellor and Director of the RELLIS Academic Alliance for the Texas A&M University System. His current responsibilities focus on development of the RELLIS Academic Alliance on the A&M System RELLIS Campus, which is a collaborative initiative among all A&M System institutions for offering degree and workforce programs in the Brazos Valley in collaboration with Blinn College District.
Dr. Nelson's primary technical research interest is the behavior of structural systems. For over 35 years he has been actively involved in evaluating the behavior of free-fall lifeboats and the development of analytical tools to predict that behavior. His research has formed the basis for many of the regulations of the International Maritime Organization for free-fall lifeboat performance. Since 1988, Dr. Nelson has served as a technical advisor to the United States Delegation to the International Maritime Organization, which is a United Nations Treaty Organization. In that capacity, he is a primary author of the international recommendation for testing free-fall lifeboats and many of the international regulations regarding the launch of free-fall lifeboats. In 1996 Dr. Nelson received the United States Marine Safety Award for accomplishments furthering the cause of safety in the marine industry.
He has authored many technical papers that have been presented in national and international forums and co-authored three textbooks. Dr. Nelson chaired a national committee of the American Society of Civil Engineers for curriculum redesign supporting the civil engineering body of knowledge. He is actively engaged in developing strategies for enhancing the STEM education pipeline in Texas and nationally, and has testified before the Texas Senate and House Higher Education Committees in that regard. He chaired the councils for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board developing statewide articulation compacts for several engineering and science programs. He chaired the Engineering Field of Study Committee for the Coordinating Board. Dr. Nelson was the primary architect of the UT Tyler Houston Engineering Center through which UT Tyler’s engineering programs are available to students in Houston. He also served on the Texas State Board of Education committee preparing the standards for career and technical education. In addition, Dr. Nelson served as the chair of the academic advisory committee for the Texas Board of Registration for Professional Engineers, and chaired the task committee to enhance faculty licensure.
Revised 20211231