As a child Lisa Davis dreamed of being an architect or wildlife biologist. But after having children, her direction was undecided until she took professor James Deacon’s environmental studies class as an undergrad. Her journey has taken twists and turns since, but her passion for sustainability and adventure remains strong. As the associate director of MBA programs at UNLV, she provides academic and career advising to graduate students, coordinates recruiting and oversees the day-to-day operations of the program. Her loyalty to UNLV is clear: She has spent 20 years on campus as an employee and is a triple alumna (’97 BA Environmental Studies, ’99 MBA, and ’18 PhD Workforce Development and Organizational Leadership). And, her dedication has not gone unnoticed, Davis was recognized as UNLV’s Administrative Faculty Member of the Year for 2019. During her time on campus she has found a way to weave her sense of adventure and passion for sustainability into her daily tasks.
What did you do at UNLV before your current role?
As an undergrad and during my MBA I ran the Innovations for Reuse in Education warehouse that was funded through the Nevada department of environmental protection. It was a lot like the Teacher Exchange across the street from UNLV now. Innovations for Reuse in Education was the topic of my undergraduate thesis. We had teachers who came on Wednesdays and Saturdays to pick up items we had donated. I was doing my MBA at the time, so it was fun to apply what I was learning to that little-bitty business. I had to work with undergraduate students for a few years and then graduate students, and it prepared me for the work I do now with students to better understand their experiences.
If you weren’t working at UNLV, where do you think you’d be?
I’d be working in a leadership role in corporate social responsibility and sustainability.
Your favorite part of working with students in the MBA program
I love seeing them come here, not sure what to expect, and then graduating two to four years later and they’re totally different people. And then watching what they accomplish as alumni.
Last big project you completed
The Ph.D. program. After I finished, I took my grandkids hiking for a couple of days at Red Rock Canyon.
Best tip for someone new to UNLV
For administrative faculty or classified staff, I recommend getting involved in the peer connection program. It’s a great way to get to know someone on campus you wouldn’t know otherwise and learn about the university and campus from someone outside of your department. And, I would say, get involved in activities on campus.
When did you realize campus had changed from the time you arrived?
It’s so different from when I went to school here. It’s more diverse. There’s amazing faculty coming in and students from all over the world. I don’t know when I realized that, but the talent that is brought in for faculty, staff, and students is incredible.
Your favorite secret spot on campus
There’s a little atrium in the biology building. It’s in the middle of the building and I discovered it during my time as an undergrad. There are only a few chairs, running water, and big plants.
The biggest misconception you encounter about UNLV
For me it’s the MBA program. I was on an airplane once and I told the man sitting next to me I worked in the MBA programs at UNLV and he thought I recruited basketball players for the NBA. He asked me if I knew Shaquille O’Neal. I don’t know anything about sports.
But, seriously, in my travels around the world, people know UNLV and they know Las Vegas. It has good brand recognition. And even working with prospective students, they always refer to UNLV as an esteemed institution. It has a very good reputation.
The trait you like most about yourself
I have a sense of adventure.
A time in your life you were daring
I was traveling to Turkey by myself and my hotel didn’t send a car because they had my arrival down for the next day. I was 80 kilometers out and ended up sleeping in the airport. In the middle of the night, around 2 a.m., a taxi arrived to take me to my hotel. It was pitch black outside and seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. I remember texting my sister my last known destination in case I disappeared.
A moment in your life you would like to repeat
Last year I traveled to Mongolia, and camped in Terelj Park. I pitched a tent by the water. It was beautiful. There was sap there I have never experienced here. You walk and it stuck to the bottom of your feet. I was reading a book under a tree, and across the river was what looked like a wolf. We caught eyes, and he started to go down to cross the river. I was freaking out, I didn’t want to have a wolf encounter. He came up toward me and I ran like crazy back to the tent. He came up to the door, wagging his tail – he was a husky. For the next four days I was there, that dog was there the whole time. He slept outside my tent, he went hiking with me. I’d like to do that again.
What would your last meal be and how does that represent you?
Grilled cheese, with the cheese as thick as the bread that is perfectly melted and drips from the sides. And, French vanilla ice cream for dessert. It’s comfort food and reminds me of my family and how important they are to me.
What People Nominating Davis as Employee of the Year Had to Say
Chin-Chun “Vincent” Hsu, director of MBA programs:
"Lisa is a fabulous colleague, a huge asset to MBA Programs and her job performance has been consistently met with rave reviews. She always finds the most effective ways to get her job done and serves as a highly positive role model in all performance areas. She excels in effective and positive communications with MBA students and is extremely cooperative with all LBS (Lee Business School) members. The quality of work she produced is excellent and she effectively plans MBA admission work schedules to balance peak and slack periods. She has developed the skills needed to maintain the highest standards of professional excellence to serve our MBA students.
"On a personal level, Lisa is a very humble person. I would say that she is one of, if not the, most well-liked person in MBA Programs office and MBA student group. She works well with everyone, from faculty and administrative assistants to MBA students. The faculty and staff at the Lee Business School appreciate Lisa as an exceptional colleague who excels in her work."
Nevena Cvijetic, president of the MBA Student Association, and Adonis Abuyen, president of the Asian MBA Association:
"As associate director, Dr. Davis is known by all MBA students as the “go-to” person for navigating the program. Her compassion and tenacity ensures all students feel consistently supported academically and well informed logistically — thus ensuring a timely completion of the degree. Her wealth of knowledge and ability to connect with all types of individuals makes her the program’s most valuable asset in recruitment.
"UNLV MBA students, past and present, consider Dr. Davis synonymous with the program she serves — an engaging and priceless asset toward a very bright future."