While many a tourists can't imagine what life is like for Las Vegas residents, the city's unique attributes prompted Katherine Jackson to imagine herself here. Jackson had lived most of her life in Liverpool, England, before a vacation in 2010 brought her here.
She loved the dichotomy between city life and suburbia that Las Vegas offers its residents. Her desire for a major lifestyle change grew when Jackson returned to her British home. She began to explore ways she might be able to move to Las Vegas. That’s how she discovered UNLV’s William F. Harrah College of Hospitality. Shortly after, she sold her house and her car, gave away all her possessions, and left her 13-year marketing career to earn her bachelor's in gaming management from UNLV in 2014. Now, Jackson serves as associate director of the International Gaming Institute.
She likes to tell people that she took a gamble on Las Vegas, and she won big.
What’s the most Vegas thing you’ve done since you got here?
For me, the most “Vegas” thing is being able to randomly do Vegas things. For example, I can live my regular, everyday life, but then, if I want to, I can drive to the Strip on some idle Wednesday to dine at a world-class restaurant and see a world-class show. Other people might save up for that kind of thing as a once-in-a-lifetime vacation. I never lose sight of how lucky we are here.
What was your greatest day on campus? And your toughest?
I didn't realize this at the time, but I think my greatest on-campus day was the day I interviewed to be a student worker at the International Gaming Institute. It completely changed the direction of my life and career. It was a marketing student worker position, and I had the qualifications and was interested in exploring the marketing side of gaming. I thought, “Why not?”
But it was really so much more than a student worker position; it was an opportunity. I’m now the associate director and, alongside our executive director, I’ve really had the opportunity to grow our department from two employees to more than 25.
In terms of the toughest day, I would say the first year of being a student at UNLV was some of the toughest days of my life. I was 37 years old when I moved here. I left an established life with deep roots in Liverpool, where I'd lived for almost 20 years. I chose to remove myself from everything familiar to me to try something new. You can't anticipate how difficult that's going to be at times.
Tell us about an object in your office and what it represents to you.
My two stone carving statues. This goes back to taking advantage of what’s available to you. Through the UNLV Office of Continuing Education, I took stone carving classes for a couple of years and created two sculptures. The second piece that I created is actually based off of a 1930s glass etching that’s housed in the windows of the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall. When I look at the statue, it connects me back to the place where I sang in the university choir and where I have watched countless musical and orchestral performances over the years.
What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
I've always been a dancer: ballet, ballroom, Brazilian samba, everything. One of the coolest things I’ve ever gotten to do in my life, something that combined my love of dance and my love of art, was when I was Antony Gormley’s living sculpture on the usually empty fourth plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square. The project was called One & Other, and I was one of 34,520 applicants and 2,400 participants. The 2,400 participants were meant to represent every region of the United Kingdom, and Gormley’s project purpose was to create a collective portrait of humanity. For my hour on the plinth, I dressed in one of the carnival costumes that I wore for the Brazilian carnivals I used to perform in. And I spent one glorious hour just basically showing off.
What is a British tradition that you wish you could bring to America?
For me, it's tea. It’s the ritual of making tea and drinking tea with friends. Forgive the pun, but it's so steeped in cultural meaning for us Brits. When anything bad happens or anything good happens, you put the kettle on and have a cup of tea. It's so much more than just a drink — it’s an exercise in bonding with family, friends, and coworkers.
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A weatherwoman. I'm just fascinated by the weather. Maybe, in part, that comes from being a Brit. Most Brits are obsessed with the weather. We just talk about the weather all the time. We complain when it's sunny, we complain when it rains, we just like to complain about the weather.