Speaking and Presentations

To invite Charlie to be a speaker at your event, please complete the booking request form. 

What can you expect from a Charlie Nelms speech?

A thought-provoking, passionately delivered speech on an array of contemporary topics for audiences that transcend generational boundaries, socio-economic status, ethnicity or professional affiliations. As a university leader who has devoted his life to working to level the playing field for historically disenfranchised people, Charlie challenges his audiences to become more assertive agents of change for excellence, equity and inclusion in all dimensions of life.

Who are Charlie’s target audiences?

Charlie is a compelling speaker whose storyteller’s presentation style resonates with higher education and nonprofit executives, professional association conference participants, youth workers, philanthropists, and P-16 educators alike.

Topics of Charlie’s speeches

 • Ageing with Grace & Gratitude
 • College Access & Student Success
 • Creating & Sustaining a Culture of Philanthropy
 • Diversity & Inclusion
 • Leadership Matters
 • Leveraging Personal & Political Clout
 • Motivating & Empowering Millennials
 • Nurturing the Dreams of Black Boys
 • Strengthening Black Colleges & Universities
 • University Leadership & Governance

What are some examples of Charlie’s speeches?

“How to Change the World: Reflections of a Black Baby Boomer” Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs
Some audience reactions to this speech


In Judaism, we have a concept of Tikkun Olam, which translates roughly to “healing the world”. All Jews are called to put the world back together into a state that God can dwell here among us. “Learned helplessness” is the exact opposite of that concept. Learned helplessness is the idea that we are unable to impact our world with our meager individual efforts. Dr. Nelms describes the exact set of steps one needs to employ to unlearn the concept of “learned helplessness”. He starts with the practical approach of his parents who believed in voting, owning land, and in the value of education. They used these basic tools to ensure their children all had a foundation to change the world and make it a place that resonated with their values.”


I loved Dr. Nelms’ presentation! It was clear, concise, and practical. The approach does not have to be fancy, complex, nor ostentatious to make a difference in the world. If we can dream big, focus on critical thinking, be willing to engage in life-long learning, and be open to understanding the world from many diverse perspectives; if we can use our passion and compassion, be tenacious, and recognize and celebrate our successes, we can make an impact. There is no complicated algorithm, according to Dr. Nelms. It is about hard work, never giving up, and remembering that we are the ones on whom the change is incumbent; “we are they” as he says.”


One of the communities our agency serves is a university community. Every civic activity is mired in “analysis paralysis” in which a committee must be convened to examine each and every idea and concept in infinite detail before it can be put into action. Dr. Nelms says “do not confuse movement with progress” and “education is not a degree”. I wish I could bring him to a few meetings with me to give these highly educated people who preside rather than lead a few words of guidance.”

“Diversifying Leadership and Philanthropy: Key Steps,” keynote speaker The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) Diverse Philanthropy and Leadership Conference.
University of Arkansas Pine Bluff Founders’ Day speech
Inauguration of Dr. John W. Bardo as president of Wichita State University
Inauguration of Dr. Kevin D. Rome, Sr. as president of Fisk University
City of Bloomington 2016 Black History Celebration

Profiles: Charlie Nelms and Gerardo González, WFIU, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN Charlie and Gerárdo share their stories about family, mentors, their decades-long academic careers, and how education transformed their lives.

Some other examples of Charlie’s speeches and presentations

Interview of Dr. Nelms
WFHB: Bring It On with hosts Clarence Boone and Roberta Radovich
They discuss the state of higher education with Betsy Devos as the United States Secretary of Education and the importance of Black History Month.

Making A Path To Becoming A University President: Episode 2: Understanding Boards of Trustees
“Transformative Conversations” podcast
with Dr. Ken Coopwood, Sr. and Dr. William Lewis, Sr.
Understanding the Role of Boards of Trustees, Dr. Charlie Nelms, Former President and Former Chancellor, North Carolina Central University, University of Michigan-Flint and Indiana University-East. In this episode, Dr. Nelms provides insights from his experiences of working for and with Boards of Trustees.Interview

Charlie’s blog “An Urgent Call to Black and Brown Voters” was published on the Huffington Post.

Essayist
(with William B. Harvey)
The Promise and Possibilities of “Woke” HBCUs
Southern Education Foundation

Facilitator
Mid-Year Retreat
New Leadership Academy
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI

Keynote Speaker
Faculty-Staff Diversity Retreat
IU School of Education
Bloomington, IN

Speaker, Facilitator & Mentor
AASCU Millennium Leadership Institute
Washington, DC

Planning Consultant
Southern Education Foundation
Sesquicentennial Celebration
Atlanta, GA

Keynote Speaker
Staff & Faculty Institute
Philander Smith College
Little Rock, AR

Keynote Speaker
Multicultural Competency Initiative
University of Notre Dame

Keynote Speaker
City of Bloomington 2016 Black History Celebration
Bloomington, IN

Clarence Boone and Liz Mitchell welcome Dr. Charlie Nelms as part of Black History Month – Bloomington Style: Reclaiming the next 100 years. Dr. Nelms shares his extensive and remarkable insight on the state of racial affairs in the community and the nation. Listen to the Interview.

Keynote Speaker
Ivy Tech community College Diversity Retreat
Indianapolis, IN

Presidential  Review
Savannah State University
Savannah, GA

Facilitator, NCAA
“HBCU Presidential Roundtable”
New Orleans, LA

Facilitator
Lincoln University (MO) Leadership Forum
Board of Curators, Foundation & Alumni Board members
Atlanta, GA

Guest Lecturer, Introduction to College & University Administration
Indiana University School of Education

Keynote Speaker
University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff
Class of 1969
Pine Bluff, AR

Guest Lecturer, Introduction to College & University Administration
Indiana University School of Education

Keynote Speaker
UAPB Class of 1969
Pine Bluff, AR

Discussant, Minority Serving Institutions
Postsecondary National Policy Institute
Congressional Staff Seminar
Atlanta, GA

Hudson-Holland Scholars Program
Indiana University
Bloomington, IN

HBCU/MSI Faculty Diversity Initiative
Ivy Tech Community College System
Indianapolis, IN

First-Time Chancellors & Presidents Orientation
National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)
Grambling State University

NAFEO Presidential Peer Seminar & Leadership Institute
National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education
Washington, D. C.

HBCU Dinner & Roundtable
National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)
Atlanta, GA

Forum Moderator
“Repositioning HBCUs for the Future: A Conversation with Foundations”
A conversation with officers from several educational foundations with missions and funding opportunities closely tied to historically Black higher ed goals.

HBCU Student Success Summit
Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU)
Atlanta, GACharlie Nelms discusses challenges facing HBCU boards and presidents, and how to create better black college governance on the HBCU Digest Podcast.

Panel Moderator
“Repositioning HBCUs For The Future:
A conversation With Foundations”
APLU HBCU Student Success Summit
Atlanta GA

Core Faculty member
Millennium Leadership Institute
American Association of State Colleges and Universities
Washington, DC

“Collaborating for Institutional Effectiveness”
Keynote Speaker
Indiana Association of College and University Business Officers

Charlie Nelms featured in Forbes article on NCCU’s first NCAA Tournament appearance (PDF file)

Academic Affairs Winter Meeting, San Diego, CA
American Association of State Colleges & Universities (AASCU) Keynote speaker
“New Pathways to Student Success”

Huffington Post: “Everyone Can be a Philanthropist!”Dr. Nelms featured in documentary film “Redefining Access for the 21st Century Student”

Co-principal investigator, Leading to Completion (L2C) grant
Center for Postsecondary Research, Indiana University School of Education

“A Community of One”
Inauguration of the Nineteenth President of Lincoln University
Jefferson City, MO

“We are the Ones We’ve Been Waiting For”
Indiana Coalition of Blacks in Higher Education
Indianapolis, IN

Guest Lecturer, Minority Serving Institutions Course
Center for the Study of Higher Education
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

Kresge Foundation Facilitator
Conversation between HBCU presidents and Funders
White House Initiatives on HBCUs Conference

“Collaborating for Personal and Professional Success”
Richmond Minority Women’s Network
Richmond, IN

“Ensuring Student Success”
Dillard University Faculty & Staff Fall Conference
New Orleans, LA

“You can’t fake Caring: Student Success Matters”
Faculty & Staff Fall Seminar
Jackson State University

“Four Lessons from Four Decades of Leadership”
Kentuckyana Neal-Marshall Alumni Chapter
Indiana University Southeast
New Albany, IN

Featured Speaker
Jarvis Christian College Faculty & Staff Fall Conference
Hawkins, TX

Panelist, MSI Convening
Lumina Foundation for Education
Indianapolis, IN

“The Difference Between an Alumnus and a Graduate”
Indiana University Charlie Nelms Distinguished Leadership Award
Indiana Black Expo

“Success is More Than a Seven Letter Word”
Technical III Assistance Workshop
National Association of Title III Administrators
Washington, DC

“‘Redefining Access’ Brain Trust Meeting”
Institute for Higher Education Policy
Washington, DC

“Inspired by the Past to Impact the Future”
Convocation Speaker, 140th Founders’ Day celebration
University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

“Black Male Achievement: Advancing Education and Prosperity”
Claflin University
Orangeburg, SC

NIGMS/HHMI Working Group on URM STEM Persistence
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Chevy Chase, MD

A Call to Action cover

In 2010, Nelms authored a position paper, A Call to Action, in which he identified an array of key issues that HBCUs must address if they are to remain relevant, responsive and competitive.

The paper emanated from a symposium on the future of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, sponsored by North Carolina Central University.

“Lessons from my Leadership Journey”
2013 Harold Delaney Exemplary Educational Leadership Awardee and Lecturer
American Association of Blacks in Higher Education Annual Meeting
Atlanta, GA

“Creating and Sustaining a Culture of Student Success”
Division of Student Success and Enrollment Management
Kentucky State University
Frankfort, KY

“Why Diversity Matters”
The Macau Inaugural Forum
Macau University of Science and Technology
Macau, China

“Beyond the Rhetoric: Increasing College Access for Minority Males”
NCCEP/GEAR UP Capacity Building Workshop
Las Vegas, NV

Retreat Facilitator
Wilberforce University Board of Trustees
Atlanta, GA

“Hazardous Weather Conditions Ahead for HBCUs”
National Association of Student Affairs Professionals
Jackson, MS

Panelist, Federal Reserve Bank HBCU Presidential Summit
Atlanta, GA

“A GPS for Student Success”
National Resource Center for the First-Year  & Students in Transition
Philadelphia, PA

International Leadership Conference
NAFEO Delegation Panelist
The Republic of Equatorial Guiana

“Succeeding in the New Normal”
The Inauguration of the President of Wichita State University
Wichita, KS

“Promising Practices: College Persistence & Attainment”
NAFEO sponsored Congressional Black Caucus Briefing
Washington, DC

Goal 2025: “The College Advantage”
Lumina Foundation Convention panelist
Charlotte, NC

“Empowering Students to Succeed”
Wiley College Faculty & Staff Institute
Marshall, TX

To invite Charlie to be a speaker at your event, please complete the booking request form.