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Perspectives from the COVID-19 Pandemic: Leadership and Learning in Nevada

The COVID-19 Pandemic and its Impact on Nevada

The State of Nevada was among the hardest-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to the public health crises, the implementation of stay-at-home orders and the shuttering of large swaths of the economy resulted in significant social and economic dislocation.

Effects were particularly acute in Southern Nevada due to the region’s overreliance on tourism, gaming, and entertainment and its under-capacitated healthcare infrastructure. The pandemic also created unanticipated challenges for private and public organizations, as well as opportunities for organizational learning and community-based collaborations.

About the Project

To understand how public policy actors and private and public organizations responded to the pandemic, researchers at The Lincy Institute at UNLV interviewed leaders across sectors to document their perspectives, assess lessons learned, and evaluate how communities continue to be transformed by the COVID-19 experience.

The project’s research outputs examine the qualitative effects of the pandemic on governance, communication, housing, mental health, and higher education to understand how the pandemic challenged and reshaped organizations, leadership, and policymaking.

Drs. Kelliann Beavers and Magdalena Martinez served as the project’s primary researchers, with generous assistance from Taylor Cummings and Elia Del Carmen Solano-Patricio. This project stems from research initiated in 2021 through a partnership between the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. and The Lincy Institute. Additional researchers included Peter Grema, Saha Salahi, Kristian Thymianos, and Madison Frazee-Bench whose work was guided by Brookings Institution senior fellow, Dr. John Hudak, and nonresident fellow, Dr. Makada Henry-Nickie.

Project Deliverables

“Conversation to Transformation” Podcast Series

In the podcast series “Conversation to Transformation: Possibilities Borne from the Pandemic,” members of the research team collaborated with interviewees to discuss how the pandemic shaped their leadership practices and how they view the future.

Listen to the Podcast

Conference Papers and Presentations

Throughout the course of the project, members of the research team presented at conferences and colloquia to share findings and gather feedback. To request more information on these deliverables, please contact Kelliann Beavers.

  • Date: February 2023, UNLV Greenspun College of Urban Affairs College Colloquia Series
  • Authors: Kelliann Beavers, Magdalena Martinez, Taylor Cummings, and Elia Del Carmen Solano-Patricio
  • Abstract: As the consequences of the COVID crisis tear through the United States, causing a public health and economic crisis in all 50 states, the pandemic heightened the asymmetrical impact across different communities. And while descriptive statistics on the social and financial impact abound, we hear less about how the COVID-19 experience has qualitatively shaped organizational change, leadership, and policymaking ways of knowing. For instance, what does compassionate public policy look like? How has our understanding of leadership and organizational change shifted as a result of the COVID experience?

  • Date: April 2023, Western Political Science Association 2023 Annual Meeting
  • Authors: Kelliann Beavers, Magdalena Martinez, Taylor Cummings, and Elia Del Carmen Solano-Patricio
  • Abstract: This paper focuses on inequity which continues to be amplified in the state of Nevada, where the state’s economic reliance on tourism and hospitality reveals it to be among those hit hardest nationwide. The research is based on 100 qualitative interviews with Nevada’s elected officials, leaders from government agencies, community organizations, K-16 education, and the business community. Interview data reveals both opportunities and challenges borne from the pandemic which merit consideration to inform future policy and political dialogue.

  • Date: April 2023, 51st Annual Conference of the Urban Affairs Association
  • Authors: Kelliann Beavers, Magdalena Martinez, Taylor Cummings, and Elia Del Carmen Solano-Patricio
  • Abstract: Within the last decade, rhetoric related to housing affordability has shifted to emphasize housing as health care and more recently, housing as a human right. These topics have come into stark focus during the global pandemic and corresponding economic downturns. Short-term solutions established during the pandemic to address housing instability have not addressed the racial inequity which existed long before the pandemic; nor have they responded to the ongoing worsening disparities since the height of the crisis. This paper explores the state of Nevada, a state experiencing one of the nation’s most dire housing crises with about 81.5% of extremely low-income Nevadans paying more than half of their income on rent, and the Las Vegas metropolitan area, ranking first for the most severe affordable-housing shortages among the fifty largest cities in the nation.

  • Date: Nov. 2023, 48th Annual Conference of the Association for the Study of Higher Education
  • Authors: Kelliann Beavers and Magdalena Martinez
  • Abstract: Using qualitative methods and crisis communication frameworks we examine how Nevada university presidents approached organizational learning and collaborative partnerships. We discuss key findings: intersectoral collaboration, humility in times of crisis, and crisis communication. This work extends our understanding of the role of higher education in a post-pandemic world.


The researchers’ blogs and opinion editorials highlight emergent policy challenges and recommendations.

  • Authors: Makada Henry-Nickie, John Hudak, Magdalena Martinez, Kelliann Beavers, and Kimberly Nehls.
  • Publication: The Brookings Institution
  • Publish Date: May 2022

Read the Commentary

  • Authors: Elia Del Carmen Solano-Patricio.
  • Publication: Nevada Current
  • Publish Date: Aug. 2023

Read the Commentary

Interview Archive

Over 80 policymakers and stakeholders across numerous sectors were interviewed to document their perspective and experiences leading, during, and after the COVID-19 pandemic. These transcripts are available through the UNLV Special Collections and Archives portal.

Read the Transcripts


The research team created a Virtual Community to sustain a network of scholarship rooted in learning via the Western Political Science Association.

Pandemic Inequity Virtual Community

The global impacts of the pandemic are also localized and disparate. The goal in creating a virtual community is to exchange ideas with other scholars about how they approach equitable pandemic research in other places. This knowledge exchange helps broaden understandings about individual conditions across geographies and demographics. The COVID-19 pandemic will be studied for decades to come, and this virtual community is intended to allow for a cross-pollination of insight.

Learn More