The researchers gave the triceratops the name Alice, after the owner of the land on which the fossil specimen was found.
Kjelland arranged their dig at Hell's Creek - although he previously found a Triceratops skull there, he expected he and Duran would only find plant fossils this time around, according to the release.
Duran, described by the university as a "longtime fan of dinosaurs", told Kjelland something along the lines of, "I don't know if you realize it or not, but this is one of the highlights of my life", the professor said.
Duran went on the two-week dig with fellow "bone digger" Michael Kjelland, an experienced excavator and biology professor at Mayville State University in North Dakota.
"I've been obsessed with dinosaurs since I was a kid, so it was a pretty big deal", Mr Duran said.
To their surprise, they encountered a partial skull of a Triceratops, which could be about 65 million years old.
For fifth-year student Harrison Duran, discovering the remains of the horned dinosaur was a dream come true. Since the fossil basically "just wants to crumble", they must brush away a half an inch at a time before applying a specialized glue to solidify bones, and repeat until the fossil is completely uncovered, he said. Right- Michael Kjelland poses with the skull after treating it with foil and plaster for protection.
There have also been puncture marks found on fossil frills showing that male Triceratops also used their horns to fight each other, perhaps to impress females.
Duran and Kjelland meticulously excavated the massive skull over the course of about a week, wrapping it in several layers of insulation for the eventual trip to Kjelland's lab - including a memory foam mattress.
While Alice's future is still to-be-determined, Duran and Kjelland plan to create a cast of the skull that can be displayed at UC Merced.
'My vision is to have Alice rotate locations, ' Professor Kjelland said.
"The goal is to use this find as an educational opportunity, not just reserve Alice in a private collection somewhere so only a handful of people can see her", Kjelland said.
"In the coming months, Fossil Excavators will begin the process of preparing the skull for display and research", the duo said on their website.
Duran would also like to bring the actual fossil to the university one day, according to the press release.
Mr Duran hopes Alice will call UC Merced home. "It is such a rare opportunity to be able to something like this issue that I would like to share with our Campus community".