Provost's Message - Continuing Forward

Nov. 22, 2013

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

This week’ surprising news that Dr. Smatresk is the sole finalist to lead another university has captured campus and media attention. Yesterday, the Chancellor and Chair of the Board of Regents outlined the process for identifying immediate as well as longer-term campus leadership that ensures have continuity forward for UNLV. As the Chancellor and Chair begin this process, our effort together as a campus to make UNLV great continues forward. 

Despite the rare, chilly fall rain that greeted us yesterday, students, staff and faculty continued to work diligently across the campus. Finals and fall commencement are just around the corner, and we all have important work to do. Notwithstanding the rain, we are heading to our classes, or to the library to meet our study group. We are continuing to do the work we must do to achieve our goals, individually and collectively. UNLV’s situation today as an institution is like to that of our students, staff and faculty at the end of the semester: we have multiple, significant projects ongoing, all of which require the support and guidance of our community partners, and on which there will be many tests in the weeks to come. 

UNLV has a clear and historic agenda, an experienced and cohesive leadership team, and an accomplished and talented faculty and staff to ensure that all of our priorities and initiatives are continuing, unabated. Each of our major initiatives has widespread campus and community support and, with that support, our agenda will continue forward. We are taking steps to restore faculty morale, and we are recruiting high-impact teachers and researchers. We are revamping our undergraduate curriculum, degree programs, and our Graduate College. This year’s entering undergraduate class is the largest and most talented in UNLV history, and we are recruiting even stronger classes for the coming years. We have begun to implement a forward-looking campus building master plan, and we are developing strategic plans for our information technology, research and academics. We are improving our business practices to enhance efficiency and increase response times. We are tracking and actively working to improve student success, and all measures-- from graduation rate, to student retention, to student applications, admissions, and enrollment yield -- trend upward. This forward momentum is the result of the work of the entire institution, and during the coming transition, that forward progress will continue.

We have begun to address faculty and staff pay restoration and to restore morale across campus. We are implementing a new and more equitable funding formula based upon our institutional performance. We have proposed an ambitious and realistic business plan to achieve Carnegie Research/ Very High (“Tier 1”) designation, and we have forged a statewide consensus to begin the establishment of a UNLV medical school. We are actively engaged with the Las Vegas business community in planning an on-campus stadium and events center. We are preparing for a game-changing capital campaign. This agenda reflects unprecedented engagement of UNLV with our students and in our regional and state economic development. These institutional priorities reflect the needs of our students, faculty, staff, region, state and System; all have an interest in UNLV’s continuity forward. Our dedication as a campus to these goals continues, because each initiative promises to improve our campus, enhance the educational experience we offer our students, and contribute to the economic diversity and quality of life in Southern Nevada and across the state.

Internally, we have launched efforts to enhance student success and faculty achievement, to rebuild staff morale and rigor after the economic crisis, and to operate more effectively. My office’s recent efforts to improve student retention, progression and completion, in conjunction along with Student Affairs’ work to streamline and enhance the recruitment and integration of students will remain a focus of our offices. So will our joint effort to develop an improved orientation process. There is noting more important that ensuring that students who chose UNLV complete their studies – rigorous, challenging studies that transform them into the sophisticated citizens our globalized Las Vegas economy increasing needs.

In the past two years, we have recruited a large, accomplished and diverse group of faculty. We have solidified our academic leadership team of experienced and talented deans, department chairs, and provost, and we have a reorganized executive cabinet that ensures cohesive leadership to achieve its goals. Our staff includes accomplished support personnel, shrewd financial managers, experienced managers, and effective communicators. This team has experience and established ties to the faculty, staff, students, community and state. 

Our efforts to enhance that leadership, faculty and staff will also continue unabated. We expect to hire new deans for those colleges currently under interim leadership this spring. Weexpect to complete searches at the cabinet level. We will continue the leadership development programs that we have piloted this year. We will continue our efforts to support, advance and empowered department chairs and school directors, so our academic programs will be able to adjust more rapidly to changing conditions. And will continue our aggressive effort to rebuild our faculty by focusing available resources on appointment of nationally prominent, full-time educators, researchers, scholars and artists.

We will continue to support our mission as a Minority Serving Institution. We are among the top 10 most diverse campuses three years running. We are a national leader in awarding degrees to minority students and first-generation students in many fields. We have diversity initiatives in faculty hiring, student recruitment, and curriculum. We should and will continue these efforts to reflect, enhance and serve the diversity of southern Nevada.

At least two master planning projects are coming to a conclusion. We expect to implement the recommendations of the IT Master Plan and the recommendations associated with the NSHE’s Integrate 2 project. These and other steps to improve our campus functioning, enhance customer service, and operate more efficiently will proceed.

This overview of the many activities on campus highlights that we have much going for us. Leadership is important, and I am confident that the Chancellor and Chair will ensure that UNLV has the leadership it requires to become the nationally prominent university that Nevada needs. In the meantime, we are equipped to continue to pursue our goals unimpeded. The goals Neal articulated are, after all, our goals. The campus is dedicated to achieving them.

John Valery White
Executive Vice President and Provost