Sharon Jalene stands with members of UNLV Creates

Sharon Jalene (center), Associate Dean of Academic and Student Affairs for the School of Integrated Health Sciences, delivered an inspiring speech to new students and their families during the annual UNLV Creates 

Sep. 1, 2023

By Steven Slivka (Director of Communications, School of Integrated Health Sciences)

Dressed in all black while striding confidently across the stage in a pair of sparkling ruby red boots, Sharon Jalene was in her element speaking to thousands of new students and their families during UNLV Creates.

Jalene, the Associate Dean of Academic and Student Affairs for the School of Integrated Health Sciences, welcomed the new freshmen to the UNLV family, reminding them that they belonged here.

Her message to them was simple, yet powerful: You are a ‘human being,’ not a ‘human doing.’

Jalene is a three-time graduate of the School of Integrated Health Sciences, graduating Summa Cum Laude with her Bachelor’s degree in 2012 and culminating with her Ph.D. in 2019.

But that’s not who she is, she told the attentive audience.

Who she is as a human being is much more complex that a set of degrees. After leaving an abusive household at the age of 13, Jalene spent the greater part of the next decade homeless, trafficked, and beaten.

“I was 23 and had a seventh-grade education, no driver’s license, and no checking account,” she told the crowd. “I was also a single mother.”

After traveling the world for years as a musician opening for legendary acts like Kansas, Alice Cooper, Blue Oyster Cult, and others, Jalene, having seemingly overcome her dark past, knew deep down that something was still missing.

“I wanted to go to school. I wanted to be a doctor,” she said. “I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it.”

 As Jalene closed out her remarks, she encouraged the new students inside Cox Pavilion to turn to the person next to them and tell them something about themselves. She encouraged them to listen intently. By sharing a simple piece of information about who they were as people, Jalene hoped to connect total strangers with one another before they began the next phase of their lives as college students at UNLV.

By sharing her own story, she hoped to connect with students who may be questioning if they belong in college.

“And this is how I know you, too, can carve out your own unique place at UNLV,” she said. “Remember, you belong.”

Jalene encourages new students to share their stories as part of ‘We Are Rebels’ - a university-wide publication scheduled to be released in the Spring.