In the last few months, the proposed UNLV School of Medicine and the campus stadium project have generated most of the headlines for the university. But those important initiatives are part of a much larger vision for UNLV: achieving Tier One status, which encompasses classification by the Carnegie Foundation as a "Very High Research Activity" institution.
Tier One universities attract the best students and faculty members, are committed to student success, and are known for their overall academic excellence. Compared to the 4,600 other institutions in this country, they attract more federal grants and spur more economic development in their communities. Tier One university research enterprises facilitate startup companies and enhance broader workforce development efforts.
Las Vegas is one of the few major metropolitan areas without a Tier One university, and no institution in Nevada has attained this coveted and credible classification. In fact, only 2.3 percent of all higher-education institutions in the country have the designation, and only 75 are public universities.
Achieving Tier One is neither easy nor quick, but it is well worth the long-term investment. UNLV's focus on becoming a research-based institution began in earnest with President Emerita Carol Harter; her successors, most recently former President Neal Smatresk, further defined the concept as Tier One.
Now we formally have started the process to turn vision into reality through our Path to Tier One, a strategic planning initiative. Earlier this year, we analyzed other institutions that have achieved Tier One status, such as Central Florida in Orlando, which has a tourism-based economy like Las Vegas; the University of Houston System; and Arizona State.
This fall, we are conducting a critical assessment of UNLV's present situation, analyzing our organizational structure and accompanying infrastructure, identifying gaps, and developing a road map to help us achieve our goal. The efforts are being led by a broad committee of internal and external stakeholders as well as experienced facilitators from an outside consulting firm. Collectively, we want to fully develop a strategic plan during the 2014-15 academic year to benefit both the university and the next UNLV president.
If we want our students and our alumni to be recognized for the excellence of their education, we must continue to move forward on this path. If we want to be recognized for our research in such critical fields to Nevada as gaming innovation and regulation, unmanned autonomous systems (i.e., drones), information technology, health and medical services and analytics, and science and technology, then we must be at the forefront. And if we want to have a stronger link to private industry in Las Vegas and throughout Nevada, then we must become more flexible and entrepreneurial. All these characteristics reflect Tier One. Business leaders as well as elected officials, both at the state and federal levels, have embraced this initiative because they recognize that it is an absolutely critical component for Southern Nevada to be competitive in the global marketplace.
Nearly 60 years ago, UNLV opened its doors to the community. Much like Southern Nevada, UNLV has grown and evolved over that time, but there is still much for us to achieve. I have always believed that you cannot have a great community without a great university, connected to that community and beyond. To be the university that our community needs, our students need, and private industry needs, we must become a Carnegie Research "Very High" Tier One university.