’93 BS Hotel Administration, ’05 Master of Education, ’13 Doctorate Workforce Training and Organizational Leadership
Outstanding Faculty Award
Like most students who earn high school valedictorian honors, Bobbie Barnes was wooed by colleges and universities across the country. Yet none of them really stood a chance of convincing her to sign on the dotted line.
“My dad was a stage tech, and my mom was an ice skater and performer who worked at some of the most iconic properties in Las Vegas,” said Barnes, a Las Vegas native. “As a result, I grew up with a fascination for the hospitality industry, particularly casino resorts.”
So rather than pack up and move hundreds — if not thousands — of miles away, Barnes decided to head a few miles up the road and study hospitality at UNLV. Thus began a trend that would see Barnes choose her hometown university again, and again, and again. After earning her Hotel Administration degree — and receiving the Nevada Centennial Medallion, which is given to the student who finishes the year with the highest grade-point average — Barnes returned to UNLV for her master’s degree.
Then, after a long and successful career in human resources with The Mirage, Barnes returned to her alma mater in 2007 with a dual purpose: pursue her doctorate and join the university’s faculty. In the 14 years since, Barnes not only completed her Ph.D. but also established herself as a deeply dedicated and passionate faculty member who goes above and beyond the call seemingly every day.
Among the numerous examples of her ongoing service to UNLV outside of a lecture hall (where she has taught 82 classes): Barnes is actively involved in four committees in the Hospitality College and two university-wide ones; served on the college's Alumni Chapter Board; helped develop its industry mentor and peer mentor programs, as well as its new student handbook; was the founding director of the college’s Bob Boughner Career Center; was heavily involved in planning and developing the Hospitality College’s new core curriculum; and has supported the design of four online master courses.
Barnes’ service away from the UNLV campus is equally as impressive and includes engagement roles with Clark County School District schools and leadership chair positions with the board of directors for both the Governor’s Workforce Development and the Future Business Leaders of America.
What’s the biggest personal or professional challenge you’ve had to overcome?
My decision to leave The Mirage after 14 years to work for UNLV. I had grown up at the property and was worried I wouldn’t be successful working outside of the professional hospitality industry, which can be addictive. I worked at a fantastic, multifaceted casino resort with 6,500 employees — every day was different and challenging — and I was able to work for and learn from incredible UNLV alumni, most notably Bill McBeath, Scott Sibella, and Cyndi Kiser-Murphey. It was a difficult decision to leave.
Over the years, you’ve exhibited a boundless commitment to UNLV and the community at large through ongoing and highly impactful service. What has been your motivation?
JFK’s famous quote — “For of those to whom much is given, much is required” — has always resonated with me. Not only do I feel so fortunate to be a member of UNLV’s faculty — to be able to teach and provide support to our students — but as a Las Vegas native, I’m deeply committed to both this wonderful city and this university. Service provides an avenue to do my part to make both entities a little bit better.
What would you say to encourage current UNLV students to travel a similar path of service?
Don’t underestimate the reciprocal benefits, both personally and professionally. Whether attending school, working in industry, or serving as a faculty member, taking the initiative and saying “yes” to opportunities to contribute — whether it’s a work project or a service initiative within the community — has helped me gain new skills and perspectives. Saying “yes” when others say “no” can be a defining moment for a student.
If you could go back in time, what practical advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?
Believe in yourself, know your contributions, and celebrate your worth. Life goes fast, and it’s important to leave a legacy (big or small), whether as a student, industry professional, faculty member, or alumna.