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Takeaways from 2016 State of the University Address
“Different. Daring. Diverse.” Those three words formed the focus of UNLV President Len Jessup’s annual State of the University address to hundreds gathered Sept. 15 in the Judy Bayley Theatre on campus.
Jessup began his tenure as UNLV’s 10th president in January 2015. Since then, the campus has launched an ambitious ten-year plan to join the ranks of the nation’s top tier public research universities. The plan includes a host of milestones spanning research, teaching, infrastructure and community engagement. Through personal anecdotes and stories of UNLV students and staff, Jessup talked about what led him to UNLV and what drives him – and the campus – forward on its path.
“This university is quite unique, and it’s quite special,” said Jessup. “When I first arrived, I saw that everyone I met with on campus and off shares a collective aspiration for this university to advance to the next level. It’s not an easy path that we’re on, but we can succeed if we embrace our potential and continue to work together to get it done.”
Among the takeaways from Jessup’s hour-long talk:
UNLV is transforming as it quickly approaches its 60th anniversary. Change abounds on campus. Within the past year, the university added a new provost, Diane Chase, three new deans, and one interim dean. Searches are underway for a Chief Diversity Officer, Vice President of Research, and for deans of Sciences and Nursing. The national recruitment for a Vice President of Philanthropy & Alumni Engagement is nearing completion.
“Change is exciting and hard, and can be scary at times, but it’s healthy for UNLV as we advance as an institution,” said Jessup. "This is a university to be celebrated. This is a university to be proud of. We are UNLV. We are different.”
And more change is on the way across campus with the addition of new facilities for academics, athletics, and student housing. As it has approximately every decade, UNLV has also assembled a committee of campus and community members – including students and alumni – to make recommendations to freshen the athletics logo and related marketing images.
The campus is buzzing with excitement as UNLV prepares to host the third and final presidential debate of the 2016 election Oct. 19 at the Thomas & Mack Center. Thousands of journalists from around the world will be on UNLV’s campus, and the impact is already profound with more than $42 million in publicity generated. Jessup thanked the LVCVA, UNLV’s partner in the debate.
“The LVCVA continues to be a great partner in many ways,” said Jessup. “We wouldn’t have been able to get the bid to host the event without them, and we couldn’t pull this off with out them.”
UNLV will amplify the attention drawn by the debate by launching its first brand awareness marketing campaign in more than a decade. The print and digital campaign will start in October and run through the spring.
“This is an exciting time to be at UNLV – there is a renaissance taking place,” said Jessup.
As the dawn of UNLV’s next capital fundraising campaign draws near, Jessup reflected on the successes UNLV has recently enjoyed. More than 10,000 donors contributed to the university in the recently completed fiscal year, topping $75 million in total private giving. The two-year total of $150 million is the most since the last campaign completed in 2009.
Donations included millions in scholarships and related support for the new School of Medicine, and funds for important capital projects, including an anonymous $2 million gift that jumpstarted fundraising for a new football facility.
Just this week, the Fertitta family pledged an additional $10 million toward construction of the football facility – the largest single gift in the history of UNLV athletics.
"This community believes in this university,” said Jessup. “I don’t have any doubt about that. And we do too – our students, our faculty, and our staff.”
Jessup discussed the impressive, “daunting” list of initiatives underway at UNLV.
“We have a lot going on,” said Jessup. “In my near 30 years in higher education, it’s unique to see the collective energy you see on this campus right now, and how aggressively people are going after the Top Tier strategic plan and implementing it daily.”
Las Vegas’ healthcare landscape is about to be transformed with the UNLV School of Medicine, on track to begin classes next summer. The Clark County Commission transferred nine acres to UNLV for the future medical education building earlier this summer, and the school developed its curriculum and is steadily working through the accreditation process.
Work on Hospitality Hall, the U District, and University Gateway projects are well underway, and a $72.5 million upgrade to the Thomas & Mack Center will wrap up in a few weeks.
At the conclusion of the address, Jessup asked the gathered crowd to imagine UNLV a decade from now with the successful implementation of the Top Tier plan.
According to Jessup, UNLV will continue as the school of choice for our community, but will expand to be the same for the region. UNLV’s student population will rise to 40,000, and its six-year graduation rate will top 50 percent. UNLV, already one of the most diverse campuses in the nation for students, will reflect that diversity in its faculty. And the university’s research expenditures will eclipse $120 million.
“The work ethic at this university is incredible. The community is right there with us and backing us,” said Jessup. “That hard work and can do attitude is indicative of the spirit of this community. Las Vegas didn’t get where it is by following the traditional path or by being timid. You can take the safe approach or you can go for it. You can be bold and you can act decisively, and that’s what we’re doing at this university.”
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