This is not the message I had prepared to share with you just a couple of short months ago. In January, UNLV celebrated yet another milestone of our Top Tier strategic plan. We were granted the Carnegie Classification for Community Engagement, a distinction granted to just 119 other institutions in 2020 and widely considered the highest standard for a university’s civic efforts. The designation follows our Carnegie R1 “Very High Research” ranking awarded in December 2018 that only 3 percent of all universities and colleges in the country can claim.
As the largest public research university in Nevada, we have always been committed to using our research and teaching to address community problems and spur economic development. These distinctions have offered external affirmation of our efforts but, as life would have it, an unfortunate and unprecedented development has provided far greater proof of our centrality to this community than any such distinction.
In this pared-down issue of UNLV Magazine, we share just a few examples of how UNLV has marshaled resources to fulfill its mission amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been inspiring and deeply moving to me. Our faculty, staff, and students have been nothing short of amazing.
As social distancing became an imperative, ensuring our students could continue their studies was a priority. It meant a massive and swift shift to remote instruction, and connecting them with resources to adjust both financially and emotionally to their upended lives. They have been true champions — showing their resiliency and dedication throughout the pandemic.
As the semester closes, I can feel the disappointment of our graduates who are missing the traditional celebrations normally offered to them. (Our plan is to give them a grand celebration sometime in the fall!) And now, like so many of our alumni, they face an incredibly tough and uncertain job market. That stark reality only reinforces our drive to be an asset in the state’s economic development efforts.
As a tourism-driven state, we know our economy will take longer to rebound. So as a university, we already are taking steps to respond to anticipated state budget cuts. But it won’t curb our appetite to do more.
Our mission — preparing tomorrow’s innovators, medical professionals, teachers, and entrepreneurs — is more important than ever. We have shown that UNLV is a tremendous asset to our community and state in responding to COVID-19. UNLV — and our students — will play a critical role in Nevada’s economic recovery in the years to come.
I believe UNLV is a beacon for adapting and rising through great adversity, and we will emerge stronger and more relevant than ever before. We know there are more challenges to come, and we must employ innovation and creativity to ensure UNLV is successful this fall and beyond. For our students, for our alumni, and for our community, UNLV must thrive.
There are still so many unforeseen developments unfolding as we plan an eventual return to campus. But there is one thing I know for certain: This is not a university that backs down from challenges. Nor does our community. We are Rebels, and we make it happen! We are filled with grit, determination, commitment, and optimism. And we are in this together.