Water Expert Pat Mulroy Talks to Students About "Pragmatic World"

Oct. 7, 2013

To long-time Las Vegas residents, the name Pat Mulroy is well-known. Since 1989, she has served as General Manager of the Las Vegas Valley Water District, and two years later was a principal architect of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, for which she also serves as General Manager. And for the week of September 23, she assumed a new position – as a visiting Executive Scholar in Residence on UNLV’s campus.

With a packed schedule that included lectures, lab visits, and luncheons, it was hard for Mulroy to choose what she enjoyed the most. “I’d have to say it was a toss-up between interaction with the professors and staff and interaction with students,” she said. “I really enjoyed going into the classrooms, because I used to be a T.A. here years ago.” Overall, she said her experience was a very positive one that offered great insight into the university. “I now have a much better appreciation for UNLV’s role as a partner to overall economic and work force development in Southern Nevada. If more people were able to see the university at the level I was able to, I think attitudes would change about UNLV’s capabilities.”

Mulroy said the main message she hoped students took away from her time on campus is that while there sometimes exists a chasm between the academic and pragmatic worlds, that communication between the two is vital for success. “I wanted the students to see that there are often limitations to possibilities – cultural and political – that have to be taken into consideration.” And students who attended Mulroy’s water talk heard that loud and clear. Civil and environmental engineering senior Timmie Winston said afterward, “I learned that engineers have to be aware of politics and the big picture in order to get done what needs to get done,” while classmate Marco Velarde added, “Ms. Mulroy’s experience with politics and projects here in the valley and around the world has broadened our spectrums and taught us to not just focus solely on the job.” Her insights as a woman in a historically male-dominated industry also struck a chord with female students, particularly Mary Murphy, a civil and environmental engineering senior. “There is a misperception out there that as a woman, you have to choose between work and your family. Ms. Mulroy is inspirational in showing that both can be balanced.”

College of Engineering faculty relished the chance to spend time with Mulroy. Daniel Gerrity, Assistant Professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering and construction remarked, “There are very few people that share her level of experience dealing with the various facets of water policy, and it was a privilege to hear those experiences firsthand.” Other professors, also heavily involved in research related to water, agreed. “Ms. Mulroy’s emphasis on the need to improve a system-wide mutual understanding and cooperation between all users of the Colorado River made me realize that we can also improve cooperation among the universities in those user states,” said Assistant Professor Haroon Stephen of the department of civil and environmental engineering. “We can work more collaboratively to research and find mutually acceptable solutions to water issues.”