Great people make great places. At UNLV, our success is driven by people who dedicate their careers to making our university and community better. And they're not just in classrooms and labs; they traverse continents, spend hours chatting in community members' living rooms, and partner with other institutions to find answers to issues affecting our neighborhoods, our children, and our health.
We also remember Coach Tark, a Southern Nevada icon and architect of the famed Runnin' Rebels, who passed away in February after captivating Las Vegas and the basketball world for decades.
Below are news stories that profile just a few of the many people of UNLV who made an impact in the community in 2015.
President Len Jessup
It was a whirlwind year for Len Jessup — a university professor, administrator, entrepreneur and fundraiser who became UNLV's 10th president in January 2015. Among his top priorities has been guiding UNLV toward becoming a top tier national public university in terms of research, student achievement and community partnerships, as well as developing a UNLV School of Medicine. He has shared his vision via multiple platforms, including in columns personally penned for local media outlets, in his inaugural State of the University address, and directly with freshmen and parents he helped move into residence halls this fall.
- BLVDS Magazine (Column)
- KSNV (Move-in Day)
- KSNV, KLAS, Associated Press (SOTU)
- Ed Bernstein Show
Legendary basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, who brought the Runnin’ Rebels to national prominence and ignited enthusiasm throughout the community, died in February at age 84. Tarkanian, who coached the Runnin' Rebels from 1973 to 1992, became the the first UNLV coach or player to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013. Popularly known as "Tark the Shark," his beloved legacy has been memorialized time and time again since his passing.
Sociology professor Georgiann Davis racked up thousands of web hits with personal essays and a Dr. Phil talk show appearance explaining and exploring how intersex people fit into American society. Davis, who was born with complete androgen insensitive syndrome — meaning she has an outward female appearance, but possesses XY chromosomes — has focused on how the intersex community deals with everything from the medical community to marriage to young child/parent relationships. She is an author and president of one of the largest support groups in the country for intersex people, their families and allies.
Echezona Ezeanolue — a medical doctor and professor of pediatrics, epidemiology and biostatistics — joined UNLV in summer 2015 and almost immediately hit the media circuit amid interest regarding his high-caliber public health research. As founding director of the School of Community Health Sciences' interdisciplinary Global Public Health Initiative, he is in the process of establishing opportunities overseas for students to tackle research that will prevent, educate and eliminate pandemic illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, syphilis and sickle-cell anemia. Ezeanolue's most recent research includes an NIH-funded project in his native Nigeria which used church-run baby showers to significantly reduce cases of mother-to-child HIV transmission, similar to results he helped implement in Southern Nevada.
Korean-American Julia Lee's upbringing in Los Angeles, where she watched how the 1991 police beating of Rodney King and looting that followed impacted her immigrant parents' liquor store, strongly influenced the English professor's interest in race relations. Lee — who received her undergraduate degree from Princeton and her Ph.D. in English from Harvard, where she studied with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. — was recognized in 2015 by various outlets for her unique perspective on race and media. She also blogs on the topic for the Huffington Post. She continues in 2016 to make the media rounds regarding her latest book, "Our Gang: A Racial History of The Little Rascals."
Engineering professor Paul Oh moved his Drones and Autonomous Systems Lab to UNLV in 2014, and in mere months catapulted the university to international acclaim. In June, he led a team whose humanoid robot, Metal Rebel, scored eighth in the world at the 2015 U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Challenge Finals, an elite competition of disaster response robots. Oh, who has also been profiled in media features on his expertise with drones, and his team have most recently partnered with Local Motors on plans to equip the first vehicle with autonomy sensory equipment that will allow Metal Rebel to drive the vehicle.
Judy Tudor is a child welfare training specialist in the UNLV School of Social Work at the Greenspun College of Urban Affairs. She is among professors who teach courses to Clark County Department of Family Services (DFS) supervisors and staff through a partnership with UNLV, which has developed courses geared specifically for DFS to work with people dealing with trauma, mental health addictions, and domestic violence, as well as LGTBQ youth, who are at high risk for becoming homeless. Tudor made headlines in 2015 with her story of how she turned her own foster care experience into a career helping kids through tough situations.
The reputation of Claytee D. White, the first director of UNLV’s oral history research center, as a dogged preservationist of a side of the city’s history that often gets overlooked prompted Vegas Seven in 2015 to bestow her the title "Best Keeper of Our History." White, who collects first-person accounts from longtime African-American residents whose narratives capture some of the earliest days in Las Vegas history, is writing a book which in part examines Frank Sinatra's role in integrating the city. Named one of Sin City's most powerful women by Vegas Magazine, White is also an educator who is happy to share tips with students about how to successfully navigate college.
Mary Ann Winkelmes
Several leading publications chronicled Mary Ann Winkelmes' "Transparency in Teaching and Learning" project, conducted at UNLV and other minority-serving institutions in partnership with the Association of American Colleges & Universities. The initiative focused on developing effective practices for increasing historically underserved students' success in college, and figuring out how faculty clearly articulating their expectations to students can help. You can check out her Facebook Q&A session with Chronicle of Higher Education readers here.