UNLV graduate in cap and gown in crowd

Newsmakers 2018: People

A collection of stories highlighting UNLV students and faculty who made the news in 2018.

The faculty, students and staff who make up the fabric of daily life at UNLV are the reason for the university’s success. From groundbreaking research and trailblazing professors, to students who have broken social barriers, UNLV would not be where it is today without the creativity, innovation, and drive displayed by the people who make up the Rebel community.

Below are news stories that highlight a few of the many people of UNLV who have made an impact in 2018.

Marta Meana Named Acting President

Marta Meana was appointed acting president of UNLV by the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents this summer. Meana has been a part of UNLV for over 20 years, most recently as dean of the Honors College. In that role, she tripled the enrollment and increased the percentage of Latino students in the college from 13 to 24 percent. She also previously served as senior advisor to the university president and is a renowned researcher and psychologist. 

State of the University

As acting president, Meana gave her first State of the University address in September where she laid out her vision for UNLV. Her address highlighted her commitment to seeing the university become a top research institution. In December, UNLV realized that goal when it became one of just 130 institutions nationwide classified as “very high research activity” – or R1 – the gold standard for university research metrics. As an added bonus, the achievement came seven years ahead of schedule.

Hailey Dawson’s "Journey to 30" Complete

Inspiring 8-year-old Hailey Dawson completed her “Journey to 30” in September — her dream of throwing out the first pitch at all 30 Major League Baseball parks. Dawson was born with Poland syndrome, which caused three of her fingers on her right hand to be underdeveloped. In search of a solution, she and her mother began working with College of Engineering students and faculty four years ago. Since then, UNLV students and faculty have developed multiple 3D-printed hands which help Hailey grasp and throw. Hailey’s “Journey to 30” began in Spring 2018, and she threw her last pitch just a few months later in September.

Inspiring Contributions

Faculty across campus made strides in their respective areas of study throughout 2018. Here's a sample of some of faculty work that made headlines in 2018.

Searching for life beyond Earth

Is there life on other planets? That’s one question that a student-professor team hoped to answer in 2018. Ariel Friel, a third-year Ph.D. student, and Life Sciences Professor Brian Hedlund, collected microbes found in hot springs across Nevada and California. Friel and Hedlund studies these microbes hoping to gain information about the possibility of life on other planets.

Dr. Tina Brandon Abbatangelo

In her field of dentistry, Dr. Tina Brandon Abbatangelo works with two distinct groups. The first is a given: students. But the second group — exotic animals — might come as a surprise. As a volunteer with the Peter Emily International Veterinary Dental Foundation, she travels nationwide to perform advanced dental work on exotic animals. She worked with a variety of wild animals in captivity, including chimpanzees, tigers and grizzly bears. She’s given a voice to these animals and the necessity of her work through her participation in pageantry competitions. Abbatangelo was crowned Ms. Nevada in 2018.

Brad Donohue

Brad Donohue, a professor of psychology at UNLV, is making strides in the field of mental health. He developed a program — the Optimum Performance Program in Sports (TOPPS) —  that is custom-tailored for the university’s student athletes. The program takes clinically proven methods of treatment and modifies them to work for UNLV athletes.

Congrats Grads!

One of the most exciting moments for UNLV students is moving their tassels from one side to the other. No matter your age, gender, or background, crossing the stage at commencement is one of the most memorable moments for a student. Thousands of unique UNLV students and alumni achieved tremendous success in 2018 and broke barriers along the way.

Charlotte Rosiak

Most 16-year-olds are learning to drive a car. But 16-year-old Charlotte Rosiak prioritized achieving a college degree before getting behind the wheel of a car. She graduated from the UNLV Honors College with a degree in hospitality along with a 3.95 GPA this spring. The teenage college graduate has applied to William S. Boyd School of Law and hopes to work for a federal court or for the FBI someday.

Anthony Lynn

It’s never too late to go back to school, and Los Angeles Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn did just that. This spring, Lynn graduated with his undergraduate degree in interdisciplinary studies. Lynn was enrolled at Texas Tech in the early 1990s, but was recruited by the NFL before he could finish his degree. Since he was the first in his family to attend college, the unfinished degree bothered him. After being advised that UNLV could work around Lynn’s grueling schedule as an NFL head coach, Lynn went back to school. And with the help of UNLV staff, and the ease of online classes, Lynn was finally able to finish his degree and walk across the stage at Spring 2018 commencement.

Breanna Boppre

While growing up, life can throw us unexpected challenges. But we can turn those challenges into strength to achieve something greater. Recent graduate Breanna Boppre is a prime example of a UNLV student who has overcome the odds. Boppre achieved the title of being the first graduate of the UNLV Criminology and Criminal Justice Ph.D. program this spring. Visiting her father in prisons for a portion of her life led her down this path. Her ultimate goal is to bring  changes to the incarceration system, with the intent of helping people rebuild their lives.                                   

Schetema Nealy

At UNLV, being recognized as one of the most diverse college campuses in the U.S. is a title that we hold with pride. And our students are the embodiment of that distinction. Known as “Doctor Mom” by her two children, Schetema Nealy broke barriers this fall by becoming the first African-American woman at UNLV to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry. Nealy’s dissertation research has focused on encouraging minorities to not only pursue but remain in STEM-related fields.

Kevin Ashi

After realizing that UNLV didn’t have an organization dedicated to helping Latinos and other minorities navigate the pre-medical field, first-generation college student Kevin Ashi and four of his peers co-founded UNLV’s Latino Pre-Medical Student Association. This fall, Ashi graduated from UNLV Honors College with a double major in biology and pre-med along with a minor in French. During his time at UNLV, Ashi has engaged in undergraduate research, completed a Harvard fellowship in Peru, and tutored students in the Academic Success Center. Ashi plans on attending medical school next fall.

Gambling with Dominoes

Attending a university in the casino capital of the world does indeed provide its perks, especially for Harold Moret, a graduate of UNLV’s Center for Gaming Innovation. This fall, the UNLV graduate made his own mark on the casino industry by having the Plaza Hotel & Casino provide floor space for his game Casino Dominoes, a casino game played with dominoes. Moret broke barriers by being the first African-American game inventor to successfully bring a casino game into the casino.

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