Educational and career paths often have unexpected twists and turns. From journalism to pharmacology to communications, Molly Marks was no exception. But two significant interests bubbled to the top — events and not-for-profits.
In addition to working for not-for-profits, Molly has volunteered her fundraising and event planning skills with multiple organizations outside of UNLV. And she's continually pitching in on efforts within the Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering.
In 2020 she was recognized by the Nevada Society of Professional Engineers with the Ramona Lesley Dedicated Service Award for her work engaging K-12 students in engineering. Several years earlier she had taken over the college's Introduce a Kid to Engineering Day (IKED), spearheading its significant growth. IKED now hosts more than 300 children participants, 50 student volunteers, and corporate community partners over two consecutive Saturdays during EWeek every February.
What inspired you to get into your field?
I was actually approached at a barbeque when I was part of a student group at the College of Southern Nevada. I was being called up for an award, and the presenter, who was also my teacher and friend at the time, was saying very nice things about me.
Another woman receiving an award turned to me and, based on what the presenter was saying, said, “Watch out, you might get roped into what I do.” From there, I actually interned with her and found out that I love doing events, and I love not-for-profits. I worked for a few not-for-profits before landing here at UNLV.
What drew you to UNLV?
I’m an alum of UNLV and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communication studies after transferring from CSN. I was in between jobs, looking for what I wanted to do next, and saw this position come up. So I applied. I thought it sounded interesting, doing events for engineers. And boy do they do a lot of events!
What was the last big project you completed and how did you celebrate or decompress?
The last big project was our Spring Senior Design Competition. I celebrated with all of the kids at the awards dinner. How I decompressed would have been waking up at 6 a.m. the next morning, to spend the day at the softball and baseball fields with my kids. Not much decompression there, now that I think about it.
How has Senior Design changed since you started at UNLV?
It has grown tremendously as our college, and the number of students in our programs, have grown. While every engineering and computer science student has to complete the capstone course, they aren’t required to participate in the competition. However, most do. This past spring we had the largest number ever of students and teams participating – 52 teams total.
It’s exciting, but also nerve-wracking to make sure everything goes smoothly for the students, our judges and the public who comes to see the projects.
What is the biggest misconception about your job?
That you basically wave a wand and magic happens. There’s a lot of effort, planning, and post work that goes into every single event that we do. And I think that is the unsung part of any event position.
What can people do to make your job easier?
Plan. Know that there are time restraints and the further ahead you reach out, the more successful we will all be with your end goals.
What did you previously want to do when you grew up?
I originally wanted to be a journalist. I did that in high school, working on the senior yearbook and newspaper and didn’t really like it that much. I went to school to become a pharmacist because that’s what my mom wanted me to become. I hated biology but loved communications, so I switched to a communications major and then fell into events. I never thought I’d be working for a university. I never thought I’d be working with engineers and doing events for them.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I think probably what most people would say, which is, cherish the moment that you’re in as opposed to just looking forward to being an adult. Harness the fun and the freedom that you have when you have it.
What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
I guess that even though I’m very outspoken and outgoing, I have a very hard time advocating for myself. I’m great at advocating for others, so I think it is a surprise to people when I don’t for myself.
Is there a book you currently can’t put down?
A book I read recently that I like is Girl Wash Your Face. (Rachel Hollis) It’s written by a mom who strives to be perfect, make sure that her house was always perfect before she let anyone come over, her kids were perfectly behaved, and it was just taking the joy out of her life. She finally realized that people should simply love her for who she is, or don’t. And she has a much happier life now letting people into her home when it isn’t perfect, letting her kids do what they enjoy and have fun, and not worrying about what the appearances are to others.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Disneyland! Anything Disney-related.
Growing up in Southern California we had passes and that was just a thing my whole family would do on the weekends or holidays. We’d either go to Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm, or Universal Studios. And then as I got older, that was something my mom and I would do; we’d even leave dad at home and go on trips.
Once my husband and I had kids, it was very important to keep that tradition because that was a piece of my mom. She’s not around now but we have those old memories and Grandma always get pulled into the new memories we’re making because we talk about her.
What is the worst advice you’ve been given?
There hasn’t really been any bad advice, because I think you learn from every piece of information you’re given. I think there are things that obviously I look back and think I shouldn’t have taken that advice but I don’t know if it was necessarily bad because it probably molded me into who I am today.
What would your last meal be?
Spaghetti Factory. Manager’s favorite. Half of it is mizithra cheese and brown butter sauce, the other half rich meat sauce. And the salad has pesto dressing. It is delightful! I’ve grown up on Spaghetti Factory, I love Spaghetti Factory and I don’t get it all the time because I have to be in Southern California to have it. But I’ll be having it soon when we go to Disneyland for this summer’s family vacation!