What do a heist thriller and research on the evolving human diet have in common? Both were the foundation of awards two UNLV faculty recently garnered from the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) Board of Regents.
Each year, the NSHE Board of Regents selects high-achieving faculty to receive Regents’ Awards, which honor accomplishments that increase NSHE’s stature in five areas: teaching, academic advising, creative activities, research, and early-career (or “rising”) research.
The Board of Regents selected two UNLV faculty this year for Regents’ Awards. Artistic director and professor of film Francisco Menendez received a Regents’ Creative Activities Award, which comes with a $5,000 stipend and a medal. Lincy Assistant Professor of Anthropology Alyssa Crittenden received a Regents’ Rising Researcher Award, which comes with a $2,000 stipend.
Filmmaker Making His Mark
Menendez began making movies in El Salvador during his childhood. He joined UNLV in 1990 and has received two Charles Vanda Awards for excellence in the arts.
After his success with short film Medio Tiempo and feature film Primo, Menendez was contacted by Academy Award-winning producer and director Roger Corman. Corman suggested that Menendez write and direct a film that Corman could serve as executive producer on. That feature, Stealing Las Vegas, stars Eric Roberts and is now in commercial distribution in several countries around the world.
“It is nearly unprecedented that film faculty at any institutions have the ability to create feature films, especially those underwritten and produced by an esteemed figure such as Roger Corman,” said former UNLV College of Fine Arts Dean Jeffrey Koep, who recommended Menendez for the award. Koep also noted that students, faculty, and UNLV appear throughout the credits for the film, whose proceeds return to UNLV.
Anthropologist Tracing Our Roots
Crittenden joined UNLV in 2011 as a visiting professor and moved into a tenure-track position in 2012. She’s received several grants, including multiple rounds of funding from the National Science Foundation.
Crittenden has spent the last decade researching the evolution of the human diet and how it affects family development, forwarding our understanding of how we evolved and what makes us unique. Her work on the gut microbes of Tanzania’s Hadza hunter-gatherer group — one of the last of its kind — has garnered worldwide attention, and her findings appear in more than 20 articles and book chapters.
“Since coming to UNLV, (Crittenden) has been a prolific scholar and a valued professor and mentor to our students,” said anthropology professor and chair Barbara Roth, who recommended Crittenden for the award. Noting that Crittenden was featured in a documentary film on the Hadza, “The Hadza: Last of the First,” Roth added that “(Crittenden’s) work with the (group) … has been groundbreaking and has engendered considerable excitement among her colleagues, peers, and the public.”