It’s tempting to look at the résumé of Honors College Alumna of the Year Noelle Lefforge and crack a joke about her being so infatuated with UNLV that she can’t stop coming back to campus. Except she’s never really left. Lefforge arrived in the late 1990s to begin working toward her pre-med degree, and by 2000 she was employed by the university. In the nearly two decades since, she’s earned four UNLV degrees and become part of the faculty, including her current position as associate professor-in-residence.
In the span of eight years, after changing her major, Lefforge received a trio of UNLV degrees, all in the field of psychology. After completing her undergraduate studies in 2002, she earned a master’s degree in psychology in 2007 and a doctorate in clinical psychology in 2010. The following year, she officially joined the faculty of the UNLV clinical psychology doctoral program, where she trains graduate students to become highly competent health service psychologists. Her responsibilities include developing and teaching clinical courses and providing clinical supervision.
As an instructor, she imparts her wisdom on such topics as principles and practice of psychotherapy, diversity issues in professional practice, group psychotherapy, and health professional skills. Beyond teaching students, Lefforge has provided guidance to fellow faculty members on how to approach student issues that pertain to mental health.
In 2014, Lefforge became assistant director of a UNLV community mental health clinic, known as The Partnership for Research, Assessment, Counseling, Therapy and Innovative Clinical Education — or The Practice. She also has served as the Diversity Committee chair for UNLV’s psychology department and senior faculty senator for the College of Liberal Arts; is part of the Mental and Behavioral Health Coalition and the Interprofessional Education workgroup; and is an active member of the Nevada Psychological Association, including serving as its president.
Always committed to furthering her education, Lefforge elected to play the role of UNLV student one more time a few years ago when she began pursuing a second master’s degree, this one in Health Care Administration. She completed that program in 2016 to become a rare four-time UNLV alumna. A Rebel through and through, Lefforge also remains heavily involved with the Honors College (both as an alumna and faculty member), is heavily involved in campus life, and is an avid UNLV football fan.
What single moment or experience at UNLV had the most profound effect on you and helped shape the person and professional you are today?
It would be impossible for me to narrow that down to a single moment, not when UNLV has played a substantial role in my life for more than half of it. However, when I focus on the foundational moments, there are a couple that come to mind. For instance, the first class I took as a college student was Dr. Chris Heavey’s version of Psychology 101 for the Honors College. It’s really through this course that I came to appreciate that critical examination and skepticism is at the heart of psychology.
About five years later, I ended up in Dr. Heavey’s office after I had mistakenly unenrolled in my doctoral program to leave with another advisor. I asked him to accept me into his lab so I could stay in the program. He did, and that began my journey into an entirely different life trajectory that couldn’t have felt more like home. At the time, Dr. Heavey was working closely with Dr. Russell Hurlburt on Descriptive Experience Sampling. Working with both of them, I gained an appreciation for Knowing (with a capital “K”) about the human experience.
Another profound moment occurred on Sept. 11, 2001. I was on my way to campus that day — driving the same exact route I take to this day — when I heard on the radio that the World Trade Center towers had been hit. It wasn’t until the end of my cell bio class that we heard that the towers had fallen. I was working in the Honors College office that day, and we all couldn’t believe it. But in that moment, I realized how important it was for me to remain on campus that day. I attended the vigil that night at the Thomas & Mack Center, and the overwhelming sense of community was stronger than anything I had ever experienced at UNLV. The same thing would happen again the day after the 1 October tragedy. I awoke that morning to news of the shooting and immediately said, “I have to get to campus to work.” The Practice had services in place by noon that day.
What does it mean to be a Rebel, and how would you define “Rebel Pride”?
When I think of UNLV, I think about possibility. We are “Rebels” in the sense that we aren’t just going to do something a particular way because that’s the way it’s always been done. Instead, we’re going to step back and do it the best way possible, even if it means taking a risk. Being a Rebel is also about having heart. I see so many people across our campus making a difference in the world, and they’re doing it in pursuit of real results, not for personal recognition.
Finally, UNLV is not about just being someone, but doing something. To that point, I’m always mindful of the many “Rebel” mentors in my life who molded me to respond to the directive, “You can’t” with “Oh yeah? Watch me!”