To truly make a difference in the lives of others — a difference that’s substantial and widespread — requires a concerted commitment to jump into the trenches and do the difficult work. And when it comes to improving education, nobody personifies that commitment more than College of Education Alumna of the Year Tiffany Tyler-Garner.
Tyler-Garner, ’11 Ph.D. Educational Psychology, began her journey in the education profession as a paraprofessional instructing small learning groups in a shelter to ensure children fleeing domestic violence didn’t lose their academic gains. Seeing the hope and stability that resulted, Tyler-Garner began dedicating her life to the service of others, including assisting underrepresented undergraduates with the transition to doctoral studies through the McNair Scholars Program. Also, with the Alliance Program, Tyler-Garner worked fervently to identify children at risk of dropout as they concluded middle school and provided support to ensure their graduation.
Since moving to Las Vegas in 2005, Tyler-Garner has devoted her career to transforming the educational landscape for all of Nevada’s children. At community-based nonprofit Nevada Partners, she held numerous positions, eventually rising to chief operating officer. While she was in that role, Nevada Partners became one of 30 nonprofit organizations recognized by the White House as a model workforce development program.
From there, Tyler-Garner ascended to the role of CEO at Communities in Schools of Nevada, whose mission is to lower the dropout rate by arming students with the necessary support mechanisms to keep them in school. With Communities in Schools, she oversaw the administration of programs and services to 68,000 students at 63 schools across the state.
Earlier this year, Tyler-Garner began a new career chapter when Gov. Steve Sisolak appointed her as director of the Nevada Department of Employment, Training, and Rehabilitation. In this capacity, she’s shepherding a mission that affords second chances, ensures due process, and fosters access.
About the only thing as impressive as Tyler-Garner’s career accomplishments are her educational triumphs. In the wake of a violent assault, she dropped out of high school and didn’t return until after her first child was born. After rapidly earning a high school diploma, a counselor urged Tyler-Garner to continue her education, and in 2000, she graduated magna cum laude from USC with bachelor’s degrees in psychology and sociology. Then in 2004, she earned her master’s degree with distinction in education psychology from Cal-State Northridge. A year later, Tyler-Garner began her doctoral journey at UNLV, successfully completing another degree in educational psychology and becoming a published researcher along the way.
A year after earning her doctorate, Tyler-Garner joined the faculty at UNLV’s College of Education, where she continues to teach courses that focus on counseling and human services. To date, she has successfully published nearly 20 journal articles, all with a focus on improving conditions for students, professionals, and communities. She’s also a renowned grant writer, having raised more than $30 million in grants.
Always looking to give back to the community, Tyler-Garner’s extensive philanthropic work includes continuing to serve Communities in Schools as a board member. She’s also earned several honors for her charitable efforts, including Vegas, Inc.’s 2018 Humanitarian of the Year Angel Award, as well as the Workforce Development Champion Award for the Workforce Connections One Stop Career Center.
What moment or experience at UNLV had a profound effect on your life and career?
While there have been many impactful experiences, I’m reminded of my first year in the doctoral program, which taught me there are always opportunities to teach and learn from others. The rich diversity of our urban campus afforded me many of these opportunities, and as a result, my sense of self deepened and my appreciation for humanity broadened.
What does it mean to be a Rebel?
It means making a commitment to pay it forward. With the exemplary education I received at UNLV, I consider it a personal responsibility to give back to the community that so richly afforded me with an important academic experience and a deeply satisfying professional career. Whether it be my UNLV family or the community at large, my journey as a Rebel has underscored the importance of investing in others.
What is your message to current and future Rebels?
I hope our Rebel community will bring its collective talents to bear as we grapple with the pressing social issues impacting our community. I firmly believe current and future UNLV alumni can provide the answers to complex social issues like homelessness, housing affordability, economic development, health disparities, and any number of challenges we face. All it takes is a willingness to step up together and commit to doing the difficult — yet extremely rewarding — work.