‘Fundraising is about friend-raising,’ final candidate says

Ethan Metcalf

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A candidate for the presidencey of MWSU, Robert Nelsen, special adviser to executive vice chancellor for academic affairs for UT Systems, answers questions at a forum Tuesday, March 3, 2015. Photo by Francisco Martinez

A candidate for the presidency of MWSU, Robert Nelsen, special adviser to executive vice chancellor for academic affairs for UT System, answers questions at a forum March 3. Photo by Francisco Martinez

The last of three candidates for University President spoke to about 150 attendees at a forum March 3. Robert Nelsen, special adviser to executive vice chancellor for academic affairs for the University of Texas System, spoke about the strength of liberal arts schools, further integrating technology for students and faculty, raising retention rates, and a litany of other subjects as students, faculty, staff and community members asked Nelsen a range of questions.

“This university is dedicated to students,” Nelsen said. “That’s why I want to come.”

Nelsen said he has three major priorities for the university: Making MSU a destination university, increasing retention, and increasing enrollment.

“This university should be a destination university, a university of first choice. I told them we’ve got to come up with a plan in the first 90 days on how we make it a destination university,” Nelsen said.

Nelsen said he is qualified to turn the university’s retention and enrollment problems around because of his experience doing the same thing at the University of Texas—Pan American.

“I had to go through a 23 percent budget cut of a $269 million budget. That’s a huge cut. We did it, but we came through on the other side,” Nelsen said. “We have increased our graduation rates by 10 percent, so I know what I’m doing when it comes to that. We’ve increased our retention rates by about 5 percent.”

Each of the candidates were asked about the proposed concealed carry legislature that would allow handguns on college campuses, and of the three candidates, Nelsen was the strongest opponent and his statement was met with applause.

“We do not need guns on campus. The suicide rate is way too high already,” Nelsen said. “We lost our son to suicide. Do you know what it’s like to hear that message from the police? We need safe campuses. Our police are experts, we put them through the training.”

Nelsen also talked about fundraising, one of the president’s main duties, but he referred to it as something else.

“Fundraising is about friend-raising. You don’t raise money just by going in and asking, so you’ve got to build friendships and make sure you cultivate those friendships,” Nelsen said. “We at Pan Am had to raise funds, about $1.5 million every year, just for things that we wanted in celebration of science and engineering. We did that through corporations. You go into the corporations and ask them to support you and they will support you, but first and foremost I need to get to know the community and I need to earn their trust.”

EDITORIAL: Nelsen best fit for MSU

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