Charlie Nelms

Charlie Nelms

Nelms & Associates Consulting


Charlie Nelms is a transformational servant-leader, a motivational speaker and a consultant with expertise in higher education. He has more than 40 years of experience and leadership in student access, retention and graduation; institutional effectiveness; and strategic planning. The former chancellor of universities in North Carolina, Indiana, and Michigan, Nelms serves as a board member for leading educational associations and foundations across the United States. He is currently a senior scholar at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, providing leadership in assisting minority-serving institutions. He has also been a consultant for a wide range of higher education organizations.

Nelms is the recipient of numerous awards for his accomplishments in higher education, including two honorary doctorates and fellowships from the American Council on Education and the Ford Foundation. In 2012, President Obama honored him with the MLK Drum Major for Service Award for helping to address the most pressing needs in our communities and our nation. Nelms is a founding member of the Millennium Leadership Initiative and professor emeritus at Indiana University. During his tenure as chancellor of North Carolina Central University, U.S. News & World Report ranked NCCU as one of the best public Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the nation for three consecutive years.

He is the founder and director of the Destination Graduation Initiative, which aims to increase retention and graduation rates at HBCUs. In 2011, Nelms published, A Call to Action, a policy directive intended to spur a national dialogue concerning the revitalization of HBCUs as an important sector of American higher education. Upon retiring as the 10th chancellor of North Carolina Central University in August 2012, he established the Destination Graduation Initiative (DGI) to assist Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) with increasing retention and graduation rates. The central dimension of DGI entailed using the expertise of senior higher education officials, policy experts and faculty to identify impediments to student academic success and to design strategies for improvement. DGI associates served as coaches to ensure implementation of recommended strategies. In 2013, he and a colleague received a grant, Leading to Completion (L2C), to design protocols, processes and procedures to assist MSIs with increasing retention and graduation rates.