From remote learning's rapid refinement to a web series addressing systemic racism in the United States, UNLV has used the challenges of a difficult 2020 to develop new inroads in research and innovation. Though this list is by no means exhaustive, here are just a few more ways that the university is finding silver linings through a year of turmoil and strife. A very different future could grow from the fertile soil of 2020, and UNLV is there to tend the garden.
UNLV Cares Food Pantry Using Grant to Push Initiative Farther
As the full weight of the pandemic bore down on everyone, the 250 members of the campus community who rely on the UNLV Cares Food Pantry to help overcome food insecurity were among the most threatened.
The pantry, operated by the School of Integrated Health Sciences, was stretched thin by demand. A fundraiser in June that raised $15,000 helped, but in July the CARES Act delivered for UNLV, awarding a $250,000 grant through the Nevada Department of Agriculture.
The grant benefits the broader Las Vegas community, too. Funds will also be applied to the UNLV Nutrition Center, which will provide nutrition education materials, host cooking demonstrations, and offer recipes for using staples available at the pantry.
Art Never Sleeps
While statewide closures forced the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art to temporarily close up shop, the university offered an alternative by putting up virtual tours on the College of Fine Arts' YouTube channel. There are more than 20 exhibitions available to view on the channel, with bonus content about the individual artists and works at unlv.edu/barrickmuseum.
The Research that Leads to Silver Linings
For students and professors alike, diving into their areas of expertise led to reasons for hope after a down year.
Now open again, the Barrick Museum is maintaining in-person gallery viewings by appointment only, offering a more intimate way to experience art.
The Donna Beam Fine Art Gallery curated its own digital exhibits, calling for submissions to its 6 Feet of Art contest, where local artists interpreted life under quarantine. A second call for submissions for the exhibit #Justice, exploring social justice ideas in art. Those, along with more to come through January, are available at donnabeamexhibitions.sites.unlv.edu.
Students Take on COVID in Restaurants
It's no secret that restaurants are scrambling to catch up on months of lost revenue. Takeout and delivery may have helped staunch the bleeding, but limited seating capacity and a public that may not yet be ready to fully embrace a return to regular dining out have put the squeeze on the industry.
Enter a pair of instructors in the College of Hospitality to marshall the problem-solving skills of students. In a culminating seminar, chef and lecturer Chris Lindsay and assistant professor-in-residence Murray Mackenzie tasked undergrads with examining the state of the industry and developing restaurant recovery plans to aid restaurants.
Want to know how restaurants will nimbly keep connection with customers through current and future disasters and pandemics? Look to the innovations coming out of the student projects, like one-click online ordering, meal and cocktail kits in lieu of prepared to-go orders (accompanied by a podcast with cooking tips), and a livestreamed, cook-along Sunday brunch point to a future where restaurants maintain flexibility and connection with customers.
An Academic Lifeline
As UNLV moved classes largely online in the spring, there was a period of rapid adjustment for faculty and students alike. But with the spring in the books and a fall semester that saw the overwhelming majority of classes shift to remote instructions, it's become clear that online education isn't going anywhere.
In fact, satisfaction with online learning was so high that 85 percent of graduate students said they would continue with remote instruction, according to a study by public administration professors Jessica Word and Jayce Farmer.
Word and Farmer also found that students had a sense of connectedness with their peers and teachers through webinar-style classes and live-chats, which was a driver of increased satisfaction.
Libraries, Urban Affairs Recognize that We Need to Talk
A summer of rage and protest followed the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Claytee White, director of the Oral History Research Center, and Su Kim Chung, head of public services in UNLV’s Special Collections & Archives, found in it a potential moment for outreach, education, and dialogue.
The two used the bitter conflicts of the summer as inspiration to create We Need to Talk: Conversations on Racism for a More Resilient Las Vegas, a partnership between the University Libraries’ Oral History Project and the College of Urban Affairs. The series is a livestreamed show that draws together various academics and community members to talk about issues of structural racism in the economy, media, criminal justice, and more. The series is available at library.unlv.edu/weneedtotalk.
Orientation Gains a Digital Component
UNLV Admissions had already been planning on expanding the digital side of its programs going back to last year. When shutdowns put the ultimate monkey wrench in bringing incoming students to campus for onboarding, those plans were swiftly accelerated.
Carlee Todd of New Student Orientation tapped into UNLV’s online course delivery system, WebCampus, so new students could complete modules remotely on health and safety, academic support, class registration and other topics. Each of the six modules were gamified with badges new students earned for completing them.
About 6,000 students took the course and a whopping 94 percent of first-year students said doing so made them feel better prepared to tackle UNLV after completing it.
Because of the pandemic, there were also new student orientation courses added for each academic college, a UNLV family orientation, and courses for veteran students and international students.
With the overwhelmingly positive feedback, it's a piece of the orientation experience that's here to stay for new generations of incoming UNLV students.