I have been a car nut for as long as I can remember. I think it probably connects back to getting Hot Wheels when I was a kid. I had this little collection with a Camaro and an El Camino and a few other classics. They disappeared sometime after I went off to college and my mom cleaned out my room (thanks, mom!).
Fortunately, I was able to start a modest little collection of the real thing over time. I have an El Camino in my garage now, along with this 1969 Chevy Blazer with a removable soft top. I just got this beauty repainted to proudly show my scarlet and gray colors. The UNLV spirit mark is on the glovebox, and the car’s new name, “The Rebel Ride,” is written across the rear lift gate. It even has a PA system, so I can blast my UNLV pride out wherever I go.
Classic cars have a way of opening the door to conversations with strangers. So when you see me rumbling up to football tailgates at Allegiant Stadium this fall or UNLV Homecoming, or “hot wheeling” in community parades or car shows around town, come talk to me.
One thing I’ve noticed in the past three years as president is that, when I travel, UNLV’s reputation precedes it. People will notice the logo on my shirt and mention the great things they’ve heard about us. I’ll take the opportunity to share my own stories about the impact we have. I tell them about the impressive work of faculty in the labs — we’re helping solve big issues like the drought in the West and detecting deadly viruses in wastewater. I tell them about the unique opportunities that our Las Vegas location creates in terms of research and partnerships for workforce development.
But another thing I’ve noticed is that Rebels are a bit humble, perhaps because we’re still a relatively young university. I’ve taught at big universities and prestigious colleges with long histories; I can tell you right now that their students aren’t smarter, their faculty aren’t more talented, and their community impact is not greater than ours. They’re just older than us, and the primary thing they’re actually better at is bragging.
A proofpoint I like to cite is UNLV’s listing in the top tier of the Economic Mobility Index [read Opportunity vs. Exclusivity: A New View of a University’s Value].
Instead of exclusivity based on how many people a university turns away in its arbitrary quest for prestige, this metric measures how well we’re doing in serving low- and middle-income students and graduating them into well-paying jobs. To be sure, there is much work still to be done to support our students, but we are the prototype for what an urban university should do to serve its community. We set a high bar for serving our community and helping our graduates move up the socioeconomic ladder.
So here’s my challenge to you: Show your Rebel pride more. Tell people your own story of your experience here. You don’t have to get a classic car with a PA system to do that. Just put on your scarlet and gray and start a conversation today.
Keith E. Whitfield,
Read more about the president's love of classic cars: The Rebel Ride Makes Its Debut