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The Policy Maker

Commencement speaker Izack Tenorio found his niche in working on public initiatives. Now he sees them as a key tool in helping to ease divisions in the country.

People  |  Dec 14, 2017  |  By Jason Scavone
Isack Tenorio

Commencement speaker Izack Tenorio plans to pursue a doctorate in public affairs before entering a career heavy on initiatives, legislation and lobbying. (Josh Hawkins/UNLV Creative Services)

Editor's Note: 

UNLV's winter commencement is 4 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 19. Share your photos, congratulate your friends, say thanks to Mom and Dad. #UNLVGRAD


When winter commencement speaker Izack Tenorio stands in front of the assembled graduates Dec. 19, he’ll talk about the need to embrace differences as a way to help ease division and political tension in the country.

It comes from a place of experience. He is now adding a master of public administration to the bachelor of business administration he got in 2015. After pursuing a doctorate — possibly from UNLV if a Ph.D. program in public policy under consideration gets approved this year — he’s planning a career in government affairs, helping to draft policy.

He already has experience with the kinds of nonpartisan public initiatives that he belives help bridge political differences with real, tangible results.

Tenorio helped work on the successful 2016 Fix Our Roads campaign, a nonpartisan initiative to pass a fuel indexing measure in Clark County to fund improvements to roads and public safety.

“I like the contrast that exits [in Nevada] between the two ideologies,” he said. “It's a purple state. I always see myself as someone able to compromise. I think that’s what drew me to lobbying and policy and legislation. I love initiatives because they’re very middle-of-the-road. It doesn't focus so much on party lines.”

As both an undergrad and grad student, Tenorio has had the opportunity to effect changes at the university and state level. Heavily involved in the fraternity Pi Kappa Alpha, Tenorio helped create a Greek service day; with the UNLV Student Peace Initiative, he helped bring the first International Women’s Day event to campus; and he went to Carson City to lobby for education funding.

He draws on all of those experiences in his job as an advisor in the Office of Admissions.

“I recruit in the high schools, and that's one of the things I share with students,” he said. “Those opportunities that exist here at UNLV wouldn't exist somewhere else.” Compared to friends who have gone on to other universities, Tenorio found the access to the upper echelons of UNLV’s executives and administrators has proven itself singular. “Those opportunities are what I live for here on campus. It got me to actually get out there, seek new opportunities, try new events, and try to find ways to re-create myself.”

The son of Mexican immigrants, Tenorio knows the assets UNLV has to offer to first-generation and immigrant students. English wasn’t his first language, and though he was fluent by the time he came to campus, Tenorio needed to shore up his writing skills when he entered the master’s program in public administration. His own personal experience helps him convince the students he now advises to tap into crucial resources, such as the UNLV Writing Center. Beyond being just a valuable asset to students, he said, programs like the Writing Center represent something bigger about UNLV, in both its diversity and the willingness to embrace it.

“I never felt isolated here on campus. I never felt discriminated [against],” he said. “I always felt embraced. I didn't see myself any different than any of my peers. Here, I think my differences were embraced. My professors, instead of condemning me for my lack of writing skills, they did they opposite. They pushed me to seek different resources, and helped me improve. That was fundamental for me to go on to grad school.”