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Pat Mulroy: The Power of Higher Education

Pat Mulroy's UNLV education launched a unique career. Now she hopes opportunities don't dry up for Nevadans just beginning their careers.

People  |  Jul 6, 2011  |  By Cate Weeks

General manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority and the Las Vegas Valley Water District o Las Vegan for 35 years o Chair of the UNLV Math and Science Advisory Board and frequent guest lecturer on campus

It's a pretty safe assumption that no other natural resource agency is headed by someone like Pat Mulroy. She's a woman, a rarity among the powerbrokers of water. She majored in German literature; her counterparts generally worked their way up through science and engineering. Looking back, Mulroy credits UNLV with providing just the right opportunities for her to seize. Now, 35 years later, she hopes those opportunities don't dry up for the generation of Nevadans just beginning their careers.

I think we're struggling right now in the community with a commitment to higher education. We're angry. We're hurt. We're scared because of the economic downturn. It's sapped everybody's energy and made people think very small.

At some point we have to get over the reaction phase and begin to carve out a new vision and new opportunities. We have all the seeds here. All we need is the will -- the will of the people to make that investment.

Education isn't a quick-fix solution. It will allow us to diversify our economy. But that won't happen if we permit the brain drain, if we take UNLV back to 1980, and have to start all over again.

The issues of education are important to me personally, but also in my job. We employ a large number of engineers, scientists, accountants as well as humanists -- everything is well represented in our organization. In an ideal world, those jobs will go to Nevada graduates.

There's a lot of up-front investment employers make in new hires. We've brought employees in from back East. It takes them a good year, year-and-a-half, to learn how different the West Coast is.

The ability to hire people locally with that base understanding moves you forward as an organization. It allows you to get more value from that employee from the minute he or she walks through the door. And you can believe that matters a lot in economic diversification.

My hope for UNLV is that it will be an institution that the people of Southern Nevada are incredibly proud of. I would like to see this be their first choice, where they won't want to leave the state.