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New Face: Emily Shreve

Having experienced a terrible first semester in college, this staff member is determined to make sure UNLV freshmen don't have that same misfortune.

People  |  Oct 23, 2017  |  By Diane Russell
Emily Shreve working with students at table.

Emily Shreve, associate director of academic transitions in the Academic Success Center, teaching COLA 100E, a first-year seminar course focused on developing skills for academic and personal success, with an emphasis on major and career exploration. (Josh Hawkins/UNLV Creative Services) 

An ampersand-shaped paperweight reminds Emily Shreve, associate director of academic transitions at the Academic Success Center, that her mission is to create and nourish partnerships — ”ands” —around campus.

Why UNLV?

First, I loved the job and the work I would be doing; I was eager for the opportunity to support first-year students both in the classroom and through curriculum/program design. Second, I was impressed by the collaborative spirit and positive energy I saw in my interactions with everyone in the Academic Success Center. That sense of energy seems to extend throughout UNLV. I am so happy to be joining a community that has a strong history (60 years!), but also a sense of flexibility and forward momentum. I’m eager to see what the Top Tier initiative will make possible.

What about UNLV strikes you as different from other places you have worked or where you went to school?

My previous institution (Pennsylvania's Lehigh University) was a smaller private school, so UNLV’s differences in size and diversity have been immediately apparent. What strikes me as particularly unique (as I mentioned before) is that mix of history and flexibility. Institutions can easily get trapped at one end of the spectrum or the other, either getting bogged down in tradition and precedent or losing a sense of continuity and community. UNLV seems to be balancing the two well so far, and I hope that equilibrium can be maintained over the next 60 years.

Where did you grow up and what was that like?

I grew up in Westerville, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus. It was a nice place to grow up, though I’m having a little bit of difficulty now accepting that “scarlet and gray” refers to the Rebels and not the Buckeyes. During my childhood, Westerville was right on the edge between the city and the rural farms surrounding it. The rumor was that my neighborhood was built on top of an old racetrack and that if you dug up your backyard you could sometimes find horseshoes. I never found one, but we did have an unusual amount of lightning strikes, which felt like confirmation.

What are some of your job assignments?

Among other duties, I teach COLA 100E courses (a first-year seminar), shepherd the curriculum, and recruit, train, and support all the COLA 100E instructors.

What inspired you to get into your field?

I had a terrible first semester of college when I was an undergraduate (at Bowling Green State University in Ohio). It surprised me, as I had been so eager to get started and had taken college courses at Ohio State University during my senior year (in high school). When I got to college, though, it wasn’t quite the movie version I had pictured in my head, fantasies of which involved a lot of drinking coffee in bookstores and talking about big philosophical questions. When it didn’t turn out to be that idealistic vision, I shut down a little bit. I struggled to make connections and felt isolated. Eventually, I did make find my way, but my grades and spirit were still very impacted by those first-semester struggles.

When I began my graduate program in literature (at Lehigh), I was teaching first-year writing courses. Working with those students reminded me of my own transition difficulties, and I worked hard to make my classroom a space in which students could reconcile their visions of what college would be with what it was. Gradually, it became clear to me that my passion was supporting students in transition, helping them to acclimate to the academic community, and giving them practical strategies to reach their goals.

Is there something people on campus can do to make your job easier?

Recommend the services of the Academic Success Center to your students! Refer them to an academic success coach or encourage them to take advantage of tutoring. Also, we’re always open to new ideas and partnerships; please feel free to reach out.

Finish this sentence, "If I couldn't work in my current field, I would like to..."

be a travel blogger. It’s hard to imagine leaving higher education, but I do love exploring new places — the more ridiculous the roadside attraction the better. (On my drive out to Las Vegas, I was able to stop at the World’s Largest Easel in Goodland, Kansas; I still regret not pausing at the World’s Largest Wind Chime in Casey, Illinois). I have a passionate love of Instagram, too. I suppose I could combine those two interests into travel blogging.

Tell us about an object in your office that has significance for you and why it is significant.

As a going-away gift, a former colleague gave me a paperweight shaped like an ampersand; it sits on my bookshelf now. It is particularly important to me because my mission is to be a connective person. I want to help create and nourish partnerships — ”ands” —around campus. I strive, too, to help my students turn “but,” and “or” into “and,” aiding them in creating stories about themselves that integrate their interests. That is, I want students to develop intentional and actionable plans that allow them to be both an accountant and an actor, an introvert and a confident class participant, a supportive friend and a student who submits work on time. The ampersand reminds me of those future goals and connects me to my past communities.

Any tips for success?

Build in time for focused reflection. We can so easily become trapped in the many tasks we need to complete and the pressures to which we are responding. It’s easy to go into autopilot, following the paths we’ve already started off on. I find it important (if difficult) to build in times to pause and focus with rigorous honesty on what is and is not working. In this way, we can make the adjustments needed to reach our goals while reevaluating our definitions of success.

Pastimes or hobbies?

I am a voracious reader. Though I try to only have one book going at a time, I am currently switching back and forth between Iris Murdoch’s novel The Book and the Brotherhood and Stephen J. Pyne’s How the Canyon Became Grand: A Short History, which I picked up during my recent, first visit to the park. I drop everything to read through new issues of The Believer when they arrive. I lugged a whole box across the country filled with books I hadn’t yet read. The box was labeled “must read when you get to Las Vegas.” It is still sitting, unopened, in my living room.