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RELLIS: A Transformational Initiative for Collaborative Education and Research

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Institutionalizing Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

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Paper Authors


James K. Nelson Jr. P.E. Texas A&M University

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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 an adjunct professor 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.
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 summer 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 and Computer Science. Dr. Nelson returned to Texas A&M University in 2016 as Assistant Vice Chancellor and Director of Special Academic Initiatives for the Texas A&M University System.
Dr. Nelson's primary technical research interest is the behavior of structural systems. For almost 25 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.
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 served on a committee of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to develop a statewide articulation compact for mechanical engineering and chaired the councils for developing articulation compacts in other engineering and science disciplines. He also served on the Texas State Board of Education committee preparing the standards for career and technical education.

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John A. Barton PE Texas A&M University System

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John A. Barton, P.E. is a Professor of Practice for the Zachry Department of Civil Engineering at Texas A&M University, an Associate Vice Chancellor for the Texas A&M University System, and the Executive Director of the TAMUS RELLIS Campus. In these roles John directs all activities related to the development of the new TAMUS RELLIS Campus and provides direction, guidance and advice for the College of Engineering departments and their faculty to integrate the collective assets of the Texas A&M University System to generate ideas that address critical challenges to the state and nation. He also provides classroom instruction to educate students through lectures and seminars focused on leadership, public administration and emerging transportation technologies.
Mr. Barton recently retired as the Deputy Executive Director of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) where he provided executive control and oversight of all TxDOT operations and the management and operation of the state’s transportation system. Mr. Barton held a variety of positions with TxDOT in two TxDOT districts as well as the agency’s central administration during his 30 years of state service including Area Engineer, Director of Transportation Planning and Development, District Engineer and Assistant Executive Director for Engineering Operations.
Mr. Barton graduated with honors with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil Engineering from Texas A&M University in 1986.
To mention a few of his most recent accomplishments, in October 2014 he received the Distinguished Graduate Award of the Zachry Department of Civil Engineering from his alma mater, in February 2015 he was honored as the inaugural recipient of the Governor Rick Perry Leadership in Transportation Award, in July 2015 he was presented with the AASHTO President’s Special Award of Merit and in August 2015 he received the FHWA Administrator’s Public Service Award.
Mr. Barton is a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers and served in a variety of leadership positions on national associations including the Board of Directors of the Intelligent Transportation Society of American, Chairman of AASHTO’s Subcommittee of Traffic Engineering, and Board of Directors of the National Operations Center of Excellence. Mr. Barton was most recently named to the Safety Advisory Board for Uber Technologies, Inc. and the Advisory Board for the Southwest Research Institute.

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James R. Hallmark Texas A&M University System

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James Hallmark currently serves as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs for the Texas A&M University System. In this position, Hallmark oversees all matters involving faculty, curriculum, student affairs, student success, enrollment management/admissions, and special projects for the 11 universities and 140,000 students in the A&M System. Prior to this appointment, Hallmark served as Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs at West Texas A&M University (WTAMU) as well as a lengthy term as Dean of the Graduate School and Research at that institution. In 2016 Hallmark briefly returned to West Texas A&M as interim President while conducting the search for the permanent leader. Hallmark is the founding director of the William H. and Joyce Attebury Honors Program at WTAMU and served two terms as President of the Faculty Senate. Hallmark received his Ph.D. and M.A. from the University of Oklahoma in Communication with a focus on organizational socialization, and his Bachelor of Arts from Oklahoma Christian College with a double major in American Studies and Communication.

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Billy C. Hamilton The Texas A&M University System

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Billy Hamilton is Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer of the Texas A&M University System. TAMUS is one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation, with a statewide network of 11 universities, seven state agencies, two service units and a comprehensive health science center.

Prior to his current position, Hamilton was a consultant in tax, fiscal policy and related issues. In this capacity, he works with a wide range of public and private clients. He continues to write a regular column on state tax issues for the national publication State Tax Notes.

Prior to January 2007, Hamilton was Chief Deputy Comptroller of Public Accounts of Texas. He was appointed to that position in January 1999 by Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn. Hamilton previously served as Deputy Comptroller for seven years from 1991 to February 1998. In the interim, he was in private practice. As Deputy Comptroller, Hamilton was responsible for the day-to-day management of the Comptroller’s office. The Comptroller is the state’s chief fiscal officer and is responsible for state tax administration, statewide financial management, and state treasury operations. The Comptroller employs a staff of 2,800 in Austin and more than 40 field offices around the state and in three other states. Hamilton retired from state service in late 2006.

Hamilton has also served on special assignment as Co-Executive Director of the California Performance Review for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The CPR’s 2,500 page assessment of California government, A Government for the People for a Change, was released in July 2004.

Prior to joining the Comptroller in 1991, Hamilton was director of state and local services for the Policy Economics Group of KPMG Peat Marwick in Washington, D.C. He served in that position from 1987 through 1990. In 1986-87 Hamilton was executive director of the Select Committee on Tax Equity, a panel created by the Texas Legislature to study the state’s tax structure. Prior to his work with the Select Committee, Hamilton worked for the Texas Association of Taxpayers, a business group interested in tax policy and fiscal responsibility in Texas government. From 1982-86, Hamilton was Associate Deputy Comptroller for Fiscal Management and Chief Revenue Estimator with the Comptroller of Public Accounts. He was also research director for the Comptroller.

Hamilton is past president of the national Federation of Tax Administrators and the National Tax Association. He has served on the board of directors of the Federation of Tax Administrators, the Multistate Tax Commission, and the National Tax Association. He has served as a member of the board of directors of Quality Texas and also served as a board member of the national Electronic Benefits Council. He was the first recipient (1998) of the Bob Bullock Award for Public Stewardship. He is a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration.

Hamilton is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. He was recognized as the first recipient of the LBJ School’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 1987. Hamilton is married and has three children.

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In May 2016, TheTexas A&M University System announced an initiative to transform a 2,000-acre tract owned by the System into a premier, high-tech research, technology development, and education center, which will be called the RELLIS Campus. When completed, RELLIS will have five focal areas: an academic campus, a historic campus, a full-scale testing site, secure industry laboratories, and joint research facilities. The goal is for one campus to provide new and multiple pathways to an academic degree for students with the opportunity to obtain multiple certificates and to enable new technologies to be developed and progress from the laboratory to the marketplace through collaborative education and research.

When fully developed, as many as 25,000 students eventually could be studying at the RELLIS Gateway Education Center, the focal point of the educational and training activities at RELLIS. The System’s 11 universities, its agencies, and Blinn College are collaborating on the campus to provide relevant academic and workforce development programs and to contain the cost of education. The collaborative nature of the RELLIS Campus offers unparalleled opportunities for students to obtain academic credentials from multiple institutions, but in a manner that is seamless and transparent for the student. For example, students will be able to pursue a major from one institution within the System, a minor from another, a certificate from one of the agencies, and participate in applied research with industry, all at the same location. In this context, RELLIS is a 21st century polytechnic campus.

The guiding principles for development of the academic program offerings on the RELLIS Campus are to:

• Provide students the opportunity to obtain a 21st century polytechnic education through synergies in academic and research opportunities; • Avoid duplication of programs and course offerings among the partner institutions; • Provide students with academic and workforce offerings in high-need programs that will lead to employment after graduation; and • Provide programs that collectively will provide for the economic viability of the RELLIS campus and be of financial benefit to the offering institutions.

Presented in this paper is the roadmap from planning to implementation necessary for RELLIS to achieve it full envisioned capability. Included are the criteria for selecting the degree programs that are to be offered, seamless academic advising across multiple institutions with each student retaining the same advisor for the entire degree program, providing all student services necessary for academic study, developing a consistent tuition and fee model across institutions that have varying tuition and fee structures, and recouping the revenue necessary to support the campus infrastructure. This paper can serve as a model for other institutions that are pursuing a similar endeavor.

Nelson, J. K., & Barton, J. A., & Hallmark, J. R., & Hamilton, B. C. (2017, June), RELLIS: A Transformational Initiative for Collaborative Education and Research Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28795

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2017 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015