It’s difficult to look at Lee Business School Alumna of the Year Gina Bongiovi’s personal and professional accomplishments and not come away highly impressed. It’s equally as difficult to determine which of those accomplishments is most impressive of all.
Academically, the Las Vegas native was a high-achieving student at every level, including at UNLV where she graduated magna cum laude from the Honors College with bachelor's in marketing in 2001 and a minor in business law. Six years later, Bongiovi became one of the first students to earn a dual law degree/MBA from the UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law and Lee Business School.
In the process of earning that dual degree, Bongiovi launched her own successful marketing company. But when she struggled to find a lawyer willing to offer competent and affordable legal advice — and learned of other entrepreneurs dealing with the same issue — she created Bongiovi Law Firm. The goal: provide startup and small-business clients with legal guidance that addresses all facets of business ownership.
Bongiovi grew both her legal and marketing businesses simultaneously, eventually selling the latter to an individual who is now a Bongiovi Law Firm client.
When she’s not passionately assisting small businesses with their legal needs, Bongiovi is dedicating her time and resources to serving her lifelong hometown through philanthropic efforts. She helped establish several nonprofits, including Dress for Success Southern Nevada, Vegas Shepherd Rescue, and Working K9 rescue, even acting as pro bono counsel for the latter two organizations.
Bongiovi also has served and continues to serve on numerous community boards, including the Vegas young Professionals Advisory Council, the UNLV Alumni Association Legacy Board, the Dean’s Advisory Council for both the Lee Business School and Honors College, and the Vegas Chamber, for which she is chair-elect.
What’s the one challenge or crisis you’ve faced that you conquered thanks to lessons learned during your days at UNLV?
From kindergarten all the way through earning my bachelor’s degree, I was always a straight-A, dean’s list, valedictorian, graduated-with-honors student. Those academic achievements represented so much of my identity that one can imagine my horror when I nearly flunked out of law school my first semester. It was a humbling experience for many reasons, but equally unsettling because everything I had known or learned up until then didn’t seem to apply anymore. I felt lost but continued on with my studies and did the best I could, even while knowing I had already blown my shot at law review or graduating with honors.
Though it certainly didn’t feel like it at the time, losing my straight-A streak at the very start of law school was a gift. The lesson I learned then applies even now, nearly two decades later: Practicing law is just that — practicing. The drive to always be right and always get an A-plus simply has no place in the legal profession because much of the advice you provide is based on information that can change in the blink of an eye.
As an attorney, you must get comfortable doing the best you can with the information at hand and let go of the illusion that there’s a right and wrong answer, that every question can be answered with a “yes” or a “no.”
Finish this sentence: When I look back at my time at UNLV, I’m most grateful for …
…. my professors’ passion for and unwavering commitment to student success. Just to name a few, I’m grateful to Honors College economics professor Ron Cronovich for taking the time outside of class to frame the material that was sailing 10,000 feet over my head in a slightly different way so that it clicked; to Boyd Law School professor Jeff Stempel, whose energy and biting humor made insurance law riveting; and to Honors College Dean Len Zane, whose relentless efforts to talk every freshman into majoring in physics was admirable. The list goes on.
What advice do you have for today’s UNLV business students as they try to navigate our changed world?
I’m not so sure anyone knows enough about the topic just yet to offer specific advice, but it’s certainly become clear that having appreciation for, understanding of, and maintaining proficiency in all types of technology is and will continue to be a crucial skillset. That’s the hard-skill advice.
The soft-skill advice concerns mental health in the wake of the coronavirus. Never in our lifetime has something had such a widespread impact with such a unified, common experience. It’s understandable to feel scared, helpless, angry, frustrated, isolated, overwhelmed. Many of us berated ourselves for lacking the energy and motivation to be productive and accomplish everything on our to-do lists. And many of us forget that we sheltered-in-place to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities from a global pandemic, so we need to go easy on ourselves.
We’re all doing the best we can. So going forward, remember to be kind to yourself and others, and make sure to put yourself on your own list of priorities.