Asee peer logo

RELLIS: The Transformational Initiative for Collaborative Education and Research Realized

Download Paper |


2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

2-Year College Division: Collaboration Between Institutions

Tagged Division

Two-Year College

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


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

visit author page

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 the 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.

visit author page


Karen Buck, M.Ed. The Blinn College District

visit author page

As Vice Chancellor for Student Services and Administration, Karen Buck oversees Blinn’s student services; campus executive deans; technical and community division; health science programs; and prospective student relations.

She has facilitated external partnership agreements for the Blinn College District with the Texas A&M Engineering & Extension Service (TEEX) Fire Recruit Academy and TEEX Police Academy, the Forensic Science Academy, Industrial Fire and Occupational Fire courses, online corrections officer certifications, and others.

Buck also has introduced Occupational Skill Achievement Awards for five Career and Technical Education programs, increasing the College’s overall career and technical education awards by 26 percent.

Buck served as Assistant Vice President for Instruction from 2013-15, and as Acting Vice President for Instruction prior to assuming her current role. Previous responsibilities include serving as Director of Technical Education Quality Initiatives from 2007-13, Director of Off-Campus Programs/State Prisons from 2006-07, and Federal Grants Director from 2000-07.
In 2011, Buck was a THECB Star Award nominee and received the Texas Workforce Investment Council Promising Practice Award for Applied Sciences use of graduate/employer surveys. She has been recognized by the THECB for the design of an electronic site visit process that was implemented state-wide and for best practices implemented through the Perkins Grant.

She earned her master’s degree in higher education administration and graduate certificate in higher education administration, with a concentration on higher education law, from Northeastern University, and her Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Houston.

visit author page


Nancy Shankle Jordan RELLIS Academic Alliance in The Texas A&M University System

visit author page

Dr. Nancy Shankle Jordan earned her BA and MA in English from Texas A&M University-Commerce and her Ph.D. in English from Texas A&M University, College Station. During her 35 years of university service as a professor and university administrator, she has published and presented numerous presentations on linguistics, accreditation, and assessment. She is the recipient of the Frances Hernandez Award for Excellence in Teaching, Scholarship, and Service by the Conference of College Teachers of English. Dr. Shankle Jordan currently serves as the provost of the RELLIS Academic Alliance in The Texas A&M University System.

visit author page


Mary Hensley The Blinn College District

visit author page

Blinn College named Dr. Mary Hensley the 15th president in College history in May 2015, and Chancellor of the Blinn College District in 2017.

As Chancellor of the Blinn College District, Hensley has strengthened Blinn’s partnership with The Texas A&M System and led the College District’s development of new articulation agreements for the programs located at the RELLIS Campus in partnership with The Texas A&M System regional universities also located at RELLIS.

Hensley has overseen the construction of the new Walter C. Schwartz Building at RELLIS, and under Hensley’s leadership, Blinn also has constructed the Kruse Center, the A.W. Hodde, Jr. Technical Education Center’s Technical Education Annex, Mill Creek Hall, and the Doyle Coatney Athletic Training Facility.

Hensley also has strengthened Blinn’s technical and career education programs, increasing Blinn’s acquisition of Texas Workforce Commission Skills Development Fund grants to $1.8 million in 2017-18. In June 2018, Hensley accepted the Texas Economic Development Council’s Workforce Excellence Award in recognition of Blinn’s skilled trades training programs.

Prior to her arrival, Hensley served the Austin Community College District for 14 years, including six and a half as Executive Vice President for College Operations. In that role, her responsibilities included oversight of 11 campuses, six off-campus centers, and the district police department.

With experience in both K-12 and higher education, Hensley has served as a teacher, counselor, middle school principal, high school principal, director of secondary education, assistant superintendent and deputy superintendent in the Ysleta, Socorro and Round Rock school districts. At Austin Community College and McLennan College, she served as Coordinator for Resource and Grant Development; Associate Vice President, Instructional Support Services; Vice President, College Support Systems and ISD Relations; and Executive Vice President, College Operations.

Hensley holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Texas at Austin, a Master of Arts from the University of Texas at El Paso, and a Doctor of Education from Baylor University. She also holds elementary, professional counseling, supervisor, mid-management and superintendent certificates.

Hensley represents the Central Texas Region as a member of the Texas Association of Community Colleges Executive Committee. She is a graduate of the Washington County Leadership Program, a member of the Literacy Texas coalition, and serves on the Board of Directors for Brazos Valley Food Bank and Workforce Solutions Brazos Valley.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Abstract In May 2016, the [name] 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 [name] Campus. As it is being developed, [name] has five focal areas: an academic campus, a historic campus, a full-scale testing site, secure industry laboratories, and joint research facilities. From the academic side, the System’s 10 regional universities, its agencies, and [name] College District 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 [name] 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. The goal is for one university system center to provide new and multiple pathways to an academic degree for students and the opportunity to participate in the development of new technologies that progress from the laboratory to the marketplace through collaborative education and research. The guiding principles for development of the program offerings within the [name] Academic Alliance are to: 1. Provide students the opportunity to obtain a 21st century education through synergies in academic and research opportunities; 2. Avoid duplication of programs and course offerings among the partner institutions; 3. Provide students with academic and workforce offerings in high-need programs that will lead to employment after graduation; and 4. Provide programs that collectively will provide for the economic viability of the RELLIS campus and be of financial benefit to the offering institutions.

Development of the academic pathways and necessary collaborations began in 2016, with classes first being offered in fall 2018. As of the time of this conference, the Academic Alliance is two years into implementation with approximately 2,500 students enrolled at all levels.

A previous paper presented the roadmap from planning to implementation of the [name] Academic Alliance. Presented in this paper are the operational issues that had to be addressed and the way in which they were addressed. Some were relatively simple, such as providing for collaborative advising and library support services. Others were more difficult. These more difficult issues included developing a single acceptable student conduct policy when each of the participating had their own unique policy, the framework for adjudicating Title IX issues that arise, again having to find a process acceptable to all members that may be different from what they have on their home campus, and developing joint use facilities that can be used by multiple programs with no program having sole use of a component. A significant endeavor was development of a “Student Information Portal” that could “see” across multiple institutional and system boundaries so that advisors could see a student’s entire academic history in real time. This paper can serve as a model for other institutions that are pursuing a similar endeavor.

Nelson, J. K., & Buck,, K., & Shankle Jordan, N., & Hensley, M. (2020, June), RELLIS: The Transformational Initiative for Collaborative Education and Research Realized Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35140

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: © 2020 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