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Emerging Markets, Emerging Opportunities

A message from UNLV President Len Jessup.

Campus News  |  Apr 1, 2017  |  By Len Jessup
Michelle Mata performs demonstration

Engineering student Michelle Mata demonstrates the smart microwave she developed with alums Youssef Abdallah and Alyson Weber at the Consumer Electronics Show booth in January. (Josh Hawkins/UNLV Photo Services)

I began working on my doctorate at the University of Arizona in 1985, just as personal computing was starting to take off. In the computer lab, software was being written to support collaboration among team members across a “network.” That turned out to be a precursor to social media as we know it today. 

I didn’t know then just how much that work would impact the way we do business every day, but I knew something special was happening right before my eyes. I also suddenly — innately — understood how universities could literally transform our lives and give rise to new businesses.

Though we can’t always predict when and where the moment will strike, the work of our faculty and students can provide the spark to ignite a new industry. And when this work is aligned with regional economic development work, the university becomes a center for supporting emerging industries and the jobs that come with them. 

This issue of UNLV Magazine is filled with excellent examples of UNLV’s role in supporting our region’s economic development. We examine how UNLV is at the forefront of the billion-dollar esports industry. Our faculty in hospitality and gaming law are thought leaders for what is rapidly evolving into a new avenue for growth in our state’s tourism industry.

UNLV also is examining the policy issues in legalizing recreational marijuana use in Nevada. We asked a broad group of UNLV alumni — from entrepreneurs leading new businesses to health care professionals advocating for their patients — why they took a chance on this industry. They shared with us their challenges and the work they are doing to ensure Nevada gets this market right. 

Among them are two of our Ph.D. graduates. Douglas Duncan is a chemist, first-generation college student, and Las Vegas native. Israel Alvarado is a microbiologist who immigrated to California from Mexico as a child.

They had established strong roots in this community and wanted to stay in Southern Nevada after their studies. And they both applaud efforts by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and state legislators to bring more biotech jobs to the community. Alvarado told our writer that his emerging industry “is only going to require more expertise. Now (we) have a whole new market that’s going to start looking for employees.”

That makes the investment that the state and private donors have made in UNLV all the more valuable. As Duncan pointed out: “The best way we can recoup the cost of our investment (is) by keeping our graduates in the community.” 

I am proud to say that a pillar of our Top Tier strategic plan is to further support economic development efforts through our research, teaching, and service. Like the community we are in, like the graduates we produce, we are not afraid to take an unconventional path. We are Rebels and we take chances.