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Low Profile No More

Liz Smith was shocked her quiet work keeping geoscience rolling garnered top honors as the President's Classified Employee of the Year.
People  |  Aug 8, 2014  |  By Diane Russell
Elizabeth "Liz" Smith, administrative assistant III for the department of geoscience. (R. Marsh Starks/UNLV Photo Services)

Elizabeth "Liz" Smith, administrative assistant III for the department of geoscience, has been a Rebel since 2006. She recently was named the 2014 President's Classified Staff Employee of the Year.

Your UNLV career

I have been in the geoscience department my entire time at UNLV. I stay because of the people in the department -- my supervisor, our department chair, the faculty. They're all great to work with. I find it a great working environment. It's not just a job. I'm happy to come to work every day.


I was working for the state Transportation Service Authority when I qualified to become an AA III. I applied for this job and was interviewed on a Friday by Maria Figueroa, who now is my supervisor. On Monday she hired me. This is my first time working for an educational institution. I've found that the only constant is change, especially with the students. When they graduate, it is nice to see them getting on with their lives and you are happy for them, but it is sad, too, to see them leave.

A typical day

That would be handling payments and anything to do with money for the department. I handle all the grants and the hard and soft money accounts, as well as e-docs, payment vouchers, purchase orders, and travel documents, etc.

Reaction to be chosen President's Classified Employee of the Year

I was totally stunned. Just the week before I had found out I had been nominated. I thought, "Oh well. I'll never win." We're a little department, and I'm a low-profile person.

Advice to new employees

Have patience. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Don't be afraid to make mistakes, but it is important that you learn from them. And stay positive.

Something people would be surprised to learn about you

Probably about my varied career path. I started in retail sales and then worked as a manufacturer's representative in the shoe business. (I have a closet full of shoes.) After that my husband I owned a dive shop in Kona, Hawaii. Then I was in the timeshare business. Ten years ago we moved to Nevada and I went to work for the state.

My dream vacation would be

Going to Europe -- Paris, Rome, Venice, and London. I'd love to take a year off and stay long enough in each city to absorb the culture.

What the People who Nominated Her Wrote

Ganqing Jiang, associate professor of geology: "Liz works on everything that is needed to maintain an efficient department. No matter how busy she is, she is always enthusiastic and warm. Her attitude and dedication to the department and UNLV certainly influenced me to become a better UNLV employee, and I am sure that influence is not limited to myself -- many faculty and students feel the same way."

Michael Wells, geoscience professor: "While she manages our department budget, and serves numerous critical functions, I will highlight one broad contribution that I think is particularly significant: her able support provided in assisting the research enterprise of our graduate students, faculty, and research cost centers has been critical in the growing reputation of the UNLV geoscience department (ranked in the top 100 graduate programs nationwide) and in the department's contributions toward UNLV's goal of Tier One research status."

"Perhaps one of the most enjoyable (and impressive) things about working with Liz is her 'can do' attitude. When discussing projects to benefit the department that would result in an increase in her workload, her attitude is 'the more the merrier,' said with a smile."