Deanna Merino-Contino brings her SoCal Latina roots and an enthusiastic sense of school spirit to her new role as the associate vice president of Student Life, part of the Division of Student Affairs.
It should be of little surprise that Merino-Contino, who joined the division in early June, followed a path into higher education given she comes from a long line of educators. Her father is a professor emeritus at San Diego State University and retired as an associate dean for Academic Affairs, while her mother is a retired high school principal.
Born and raised in San Diego, Merino-Contino also lived in Orange County, Riverside, Los Angeles, and Ohio before recently settling down in Henderson. For her doctoral program at Azusa Pacific University, she spent a week in London intensively studying design theory.
An avid lover of dancing (salsa and Lindy Hop), Merino-Contino also enjoys running, traveling, camping, and visiting Lake Mohave. She loves all kinds of music, especially 80s hip hop and country. You might even catch her reading leadership and motivational books — when she’s not cutting a rug, anyway! She's also a big, big fan of UNLV's athletic teams. Go, Rebels!
What is your role at UNLV?
As associate vice president of Student Life my main responsibilities are: Student Life Technology, Student Life Maintenance, Student Diversity Programs, Student Involvement and Activities, Service Learning and Leadership, Student Union and Event Services, Student Life Business Services, Campus Recreation, Housing, and Residential Life.
You have a lot of career experience. What do you enjoy most about working in this field?
I love working with colleagues who are innovative and committed to student success. I really enjoy getting to know students and their stories and lived experiences so we can identify support, resources, and programs that can provide the experience they deserve.
What brought you to UNLV?
I moved to Las Vegas two years ago and was looking to return to a large institution that served a diverse student population. When I saw this position and the departments that I would be working with, I was very excited to be a part of the UNLV community. It reminds me of my San Diego State University undergraduate experience, which led me to the field of Student Affairs.
What’s something you’ve learned from working in this field that you wish you’d known when you first started?
Don’t let others define your career path, define it for yourself.
You have a lot of lecture, training, and conference experience. How do you plan to use those skills in your new role?
I plan to support my team with how they see themselves growing and/or getting involved with their fields. I also hope to be present and student facing and be in the campus community within my areas to provide training to students and professionals.
What kind of TV shows do you enjoy?
I love history shows and learning about different cultures, as well as extreme shows that put us to our limits like, Limitless with Chris Hemsworth.
What goals have you set for yourself in your first few months of being in this role?
My biggest professional goal is to connect and meet new people so we can accomplish the work for our students.
If you could have a chat over coffee with anyone (alive) in the world right now, who would that be and why?
Michelle Obama. She is amazing and wrote some pretty powerful and vulnerable books on her life. I would want to know what motivated her to be so open and share with others.
What’s something that others would be surprised to learn about you?
I was a San Diego Padres ball girl during my college career and made an ESPY highlight reel.