Raised by a family that instilled in her the values of community service and giving back, there never was much doubt that Graduate College Alumna of the Year Constance Brooks would opt for a career that emphasized serving the greater good. The only real question was which fork in the public affairs road would she choose: the public or private sector? Answer: Both.
During a career that has spanned two decades, Brooks has skillfully straddled the public-private line. Besides a six-year stint as a legislative liaison for Clark County, she was vice chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education from 2012 to 2018, working as a senior government and community relations official. Then in January, she decided to take her talents to private business, accepting a position as vice president of regional government affairs for MGM Resorts International. In her latest role, Brooks provides oversight and management of MGM’s public policy agenda across the 10 states in which the corporation does business.
Of course, Brooks’ commitment to public affairs also includes serving UNLV. As an adjunct professor for the university’s School of Social Work, she’s helping to educate and inspire the next generation of public affairs professionals. Her relationship with UNLV began after she earned her undergraduate degree in social work from Southern Illinois University in her native state. Arriving in Las Vegas shortly after the turn of the century, Brooks received her master’s degree in social work in 2004. She then returned to UNLV to earn a doctorate in public affairs in 2012
Brooks’ dedication to improving the lives of others also can be seen in her community advocacy work. She’s been involved with such organizations as Catholic Charities, the Clark County Citizens Advisory Committee, the Clark County Juvenile Justice Sister to Sister mentoring program, Nevada Humanities, the UNLV School of Social Work Advisory Board, the UNLV College of Urban Affairs Alumni Board, and the Delta Sigma Theta sorority. Brooks also served as a trustee for the Las Vegas-Clark County Library Board, and in 2018, Gov. Brian Sandoval appointed her to the Nevada Commission for Women.
Not surprisingly, Brooks’ commitment to community has garnered her numerous awards, including the 2005 UNLV Thomas Wilson Academic and Community Service Award and the 2008 Clark County New Generation Leadership Award. Always looking to better herself, Brooks is also a graduate of Emerge Nevada, the Clark County Leadership Forum, and Leadership Las Vegas.
What single moment or experience at UNLV had the most profound effect shaping the person and professional you are today?
While pursuing my master’s in social work, many of my classmates enjoyed practicum placements throughout the Las Vegas community. Much to my great fortune, my practicum placement occurred on campus at the UNLV Center for Urban Partnerships. Under the leadership of Ramona Denby Brinson, I learned more about the value of research as an essential advocacy tool for families, communities, organizations, and policy development. The center provided applied research, program design and evaluation, and a host of other opportunities to unite the expertise of UNLV’s faculty with community leaders to help solve some of Nevada’s persistent urban issues.
Experiencing the enthusiasm around research-driving community advocacy proved to be quite pivotal in the trajectory of my education and career. Perhaps most significantly, the research opportunities and mentorship provided by the center helped develop the confidence and skills I needed to pursue a doctorate in public affairs.
Really, everything about my UNLV experience — from the education to my professors to my mentors — was instrumental in me becoming the public policy advocate that I am today.
What does it mean to be a Rebel, and how would you define “Rebel Pride”?
UNLV’s history is steeped in bold and courageous moves that have shaped it into a unique and transformative academic center of excellence, one that’s responsive to the community and committed to fostering creativity and innovation within its students. So to me, a Rebel is someone who embodies the university’s ethos — that is, someone who isn’t afraid to be bold or exhibit courage, especially in times of adversity. To display Rebel pride means to meet all of life’s challenges with audacity, utilizing the special platform of scholarship and service that a UNLV education provides.