M. Duane Nellis was named the 16th president of Texas Tech University on March 22, 2013, and began serving as president in June 2013. As an internationally recognized scholar and national higher education leader, President Nellis has been committed to enhancing Texas Tech University's presence as a top tier national public research university through efforts that promote even greater levels of student success, academic quality and reputation, research and creative activities, and outreach dimensions. Nellis has defined Texas Tech 21st century pillars of excellence around such themes as being more entrepreneurial, more engaged, with a commitment to inter-disciplinary activities and global connections, while enhancing diversity. Nellis serves as chief executive officer of a university with more than 35,000 students, 1,400 faculty and 4,000 staff, and a budget of over $800 million. As the flagship university of the Texas Tech University System, Texas Tech was the first university in the state of Texas to qualify for National Research University funding (NRUF) and is a Carnegie high research activity national research university.
Momentum best describes Nellis' first two years on the South Plains. Texas Tech has been on a rapid ascent in higher education over the last decade and the former University of Idaho president catapulted the university's momentum by integrating an aggressive vision of research and entrepreneurship with a talented faculty and student body. The result has been increased collaboration across disciplines, with both faculty and students, and with other universities and industry, which is characteristic of the nation's leading research institutions. Additionally, Nellis created administrative growth opportunities with the President's Administrative Fellows Program and President's Leadership Institute. These two initiatives provide faculty and staff the chance to enhance professional leadership traits and develop the necessary skills for administrative positions in the future.
In the 2015 U.S. News & World Report Rankings, the university experienced a four-point climb to No. 84 among national public research universities. Over the last two rankings, Texas Tech is among the top 10 public universities nationwide with an overall nine-spot increase during that span.
Under his leadership, Texas Tech was named an Innovation and Economic Prosperity university by the Association of Public Land-Grant Universities (APLU) and achieved designation as one of the nation's Great Colleges to Work For by the Chronicle of Higher Education in 2014. Additionally, the university has broken ground on several new projects, including the Texas Tech Research Park, which aligns with the research mission of the university and Nellis' priority of Texas Tech becoming the nation's next great research university.
Nellis has served or is serving in various national capacities. In September 2013, he was appointed to the executive committee of the Texas Council of Public University Presidents and Chancellors and in February 2014 was asked to serve on the national executive committee of the APLU Commission on Innovation, Competitiveness and Economic Prosperity. In October 2014, he was appointed to the APLU Task Force on Managing University Intellectual Property and was recently named to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges' (SACSCOC) board of trustees.
Nellis was previously President of the University of Idaho (2009-2013), Idaho's land grant and flagship university, where he led the university toward record enrollments, record levels of fund raising (as part of the "Inspiring Futures" campaign), while extending the university to more effectively benefit the state's citizens and the state's economic development. He also created a nationally award winning engagement effort though the development of an Office of Community Partnerships, and developed a president's diversity council, that was instrumental in creating new initiatives across campus that enhanced a more inclusive culture committed to student, faculty, and staff success for all who were part of the university community.
He served as a commissioner for the Northwest Commission of Colleges and Universities – one of the eight nationally recognized bodies that determine whether higher education institutions are accredited. While at Idaho, he was appointed as a commissioner of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education that coordinates higher education efforts for 15 western states. Nellis has held other top leadership positions, including as president of the Association of American Geographers; the National Council for Geographic Education; and Gamma Theta Upsilon, the international geographic honor society.
He is recognized nationally and internationally for his research that utilizes satellite data and geographic information systems to analyze various dimensions of the Earth's land surface. This research has been funded by more than 50 sources, such as NASA, the National Geographic Society, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. His research has led to more than 120 articles and reports in a wide range of professional journals, and 17 books and book chapters. He has given more than 100 professional presentations and has been invited to speak at more than 60 universities and related settings internationally.
He also has been recognized nationally and internationally for his research and teaching through numerous awards from organizations such as the Association of American Geographers (AAG), AAG's John Fraser Hart Award for Excellence in Research, the Outstanding Contributions Award by the AAG's Remote Sensing Specialty Group, the Young Research Scholar Award by the Institute of British Geographers, the Kansas State University Outstanding Teaching Award and University Adviser of the Year Award, as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and as a Distinguished Alumni Fellow Award recipient from Oregon State University. Nellis is familiar with Big Conference peer institutions, as he previously served as provost and senior vice president at Kansas State University. He also served as dean of the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences at West Virginia University, the institution's largest academic college.
Nellis is a native of the Northwest. He was born in Spokane, Wash., and met and married his wife, Ruthie, while pursuing his bachelor's degree in earth sciences/geography at Montana State University. He received his master's and doctoral degrees in geography from Oregon State University.