Back in 1996, Sunny Gittens was asked to create a new tradition for UNLV to cap off opening week of the fall semester. Brainstorming, and a little borrowing from other universities, led to the longstanding tradition of Premier UNLV. Gittens, who is now executive director of the student engagement & diversity office, said the name was chosen because of fall timing — this was pre-streaming days, when tv shows always premiered in the fall. And the administration had set a goal to transform UNLV from a good regional school into a premier research university.That first year, much to Gittens’ surprise, more than 800 students showed up to light up the school’s acronym with flashlights
Gittens will tell you her favorite year was 1998, “the first year you could really tell there were students out there holding the flashlights.” But we suspect otherwise. A year later, fireworks went off in more than one sense when she met her future husband, Tom, whose company still provides the pyrotechnics.
Such memory-making moments have continued. In 2017, Michael Naft took to the stage to propose to Lauren Veslany. The couple has since tied the knot.
In 2015, the event moved to the intramural fields at Swenson and Harmon avenues. And in 2016, students broke the Guinness World Record for the most LED lights lit simultaneously. Organizing that effort was then-student Ryan Romero, who is now an admissions counselor and emcee for Premier UNLV and other signature student events.
By 2019, the event had grown to more than 5,000 attendees. In 2020, Premier was canceled due to the pandemic, but organizers are working to make 2021 a fun and safe event. It will include giveaways, performances, the traditional singing of the fight song, free food, and music. Every year, organizers from Student Involvement & Activities office try to introduce a fun new twist on the old traditions; come see what they planned for this year!