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New Face: Jason Wasden

This new director of government affairs said he was drawn to UNLV where innovation knows no bounds.

People  |  Sep 18, 2017  |  By Diane Russell
Portrait of Jason L Wasden

Jason L. Wasden, UNLV director of government affairs (Josh Hawkins/UNLV Creative Services) 

While not new to campus, alum Jason Wasden, '05 BS Business Administration - Management, '09 Master of Public Administration, '12 PhD Public Affairs, says his current job fits well with his administrative goals. Eventually he hopes to add teaching and research to his work palette.

Why UNLV?

For many reasons, but the most important is because it was my first choice. I have a journal from when I was young, and one of the questions is "Where do you want to live when you grow up?" My answer to that question was Las Vegas.

What about UNLV strikes you as different from other places you have worked?

Las Vegas knows how to handle crowds, get rid of the old, and build the new. Innovation in Las Vegas knows no bounds, and the university here is no exception.

Where did you grow up and what was that like?

I was born in Provo, Utah, but my roots are from St. George (Utah) and Las Vegas.

Most of my childhood memories are from Twin Falls, Idaho. My father was a Marine. My family traveled a lot in my early years from Pensacola, Florida, to Fallbrook, California. The nine years we spent in Twin Falls when my dad was in the Reserves were amazing. I had sort of a Tom Sawyer life — roaming the streets of the city, organizing after school basketball games at I.B Perrine Elementary, tubing in Rock Creek Park, repelling in the Snake River Canyon, hunting, fishing, and rafting the Idaho rivers.

After he was honorably discharged, my father became an electrician, and we moved to St. George to help build the Walmart distribution center. My father wired all the lights you see at night from I-15 on the loading docks. Moving during high school was a big change for me, but it was nice to be close to family.

What inspired you to get into your field?

Higher education is my passion. One of my goals is to teach, research, and administrate in public policy. It was the reason I studied and graduated with a Ph.D. in public affairs. My transition into the office of government affairs gave me the administrative home I was looking for. I hope to find an academic home as well.

What is the biggest challenge in your field?

Rumor versus fact. Often people make assumptions before they hear all the facts. Being able to find the facts and communicate honestly what is happening regardless of whether they are perceived to be good or bad is the challenge.

What was your previous job at UNLV and how does your current job differ from that one?

Previously, I worked for the School of Dental Medicine in finance and administration. The biggest difference is not having a revenue stream from clinical activity. My current position is more about relationships and helping people make connections.

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

We are a small office when you compare us to other government affairs teams at other academic institutions. It would be extremely helpful to know which UNLV faculty and staff have connections in Washington D.C., and Carson City. Knowing who has what relationships with whom is invaluable to us, especially as we move forward in the Top Tier initiative.

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

I am an expert at paddling a canoe. I can control the boat by paddling on one side.

Tell us about someone you admire.

Living, it would be my father. He keeps going no matter who or what challenges have come his way. Dead, it would be Jesus Christ and the prophet Joseph Smith. Anyone willing to die for their convictions is worth admiration.

Pastimes or hobbies?

Spending time with my family and swimming. I swim one mile every day.

Tell us about a time in your life when you have been daring.

I have always been daring when it comes to seeking adventure. I have hiked the Grand Canyon rim to rim in one day with my grandfather who was in his 70s and cousins ranging in age from 8 to 16.