As the COVID-19 pandemic and all things 2020 threatened to bring the world to a halt, the people of UNLV refused to back down and instead persevered — making new strides in leadership, community partnerships, the creation of programs, national and global recognition for their research and accomplishments, and more.
Here are just a few headlines highlighting those who helped propel UNLV, the community, and the world to new heights and commemorating others whose formidable legacies will never be forgotten:
New UNLV President
In August, Keith E. Whitfield became UNLV’s 11th permanent president and the first African American president in the university’s 63-year history. The standout psychology, health, and aging research scholar spoke to local media about the goals he has for the university, addressing everything from leading UNLV through the COVID-19 pandemic to what he’ll do to help strengthen community ties and the campus’s continued commitment to diversity.
- Las Vegas Sun (twice), Fox 5 Vegas, KLAS-TV: 8 News Now, Las Vegas Review-Journal (twice), KNPR, Reno Gazette-Journal, Associated Press
UNLV Medicine Leadership
Dr. Marc J. Kahn joined UNLV on April 1 following a national search for a new dean. Since then, the renowned hematologist and medical oncologist has helped lead UNLV School of Medicine faculty and student efforts to assist with local testing and prevention efforts surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as participated in dozens of media interviews about vaccines, medical personnel shortages, and more.
- AP, Las Vegas Review-Journal, KSNV-TV: News 3, The Nevada Independent, Las Vegas Sun, KNPR, The Washington Times
It was a busy year for Nancy Lough — a College of Education professor, former athlete and coach, and longtime Title IX consultant who researches gender equity in sports marketing and sponsorship. In 2020, Lough joined The Collective Think Tank, a global consortium of top academic minds and industry leaders focused on improving gender parity and diversity in sports. She is also a co-director — along with UNLV colleagues John Mercer and Jay Vickers — of the UNLV Sports Research and Innovation Initiative (SRII). In addition to bringing together multidisciplinary sports researchers from across the university, SRII is collaborating with the Las Vegas Raiders on the future Al Davis-Eddie Robinson Leadership Academy. The academy is expected to be up and running in 2021 and will offer programs in the offseason to create a pipeline for minority coaching and executive candidates in the NFL and throughout the sport.
- Research: Reuters, The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times (twice), The Telegraph UK, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal, The Seattle Times, The Athletic, The Conversation, Yahoo, National Post, WiSP Sports, The Baltimore Sun
- The Collective: Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal, New York Business Journal, SportsPro
- UNLV Sports Research and Innovation Initiative: The Athletic, UNRIVALED’s Beyond the Scoreboard Podcast, Las Vegas Sun
From remote classes to mask mandates to virtual commencement ceremonies, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we do many things this year. But UNLV hung on to its years-long commencement tradition for the president to honor a select group of outstanding graduates who exemplify the academic, research, and community impact of the graduating class. Outgoing president Marta Meana honored nine students in the spring, and incoming president Keith E. Whitfield selected four students to highlight during his first commencement ceremony this winter.
- Sociology doctoral student Nicole Santero was interviewed by outlets around the globe about her research on BTS and fans of the K-Pop band’s foray into politics and social justice: The New York Times (twice) (three times), The Wall Street Journal (twice), Reuters, NBC News, Al Jazeera, NPR, Forbes, Vanity Fair, Voice of America, NowThis, Refinery29, Baltimore Sun, The Business Times, The Ringer, 1A
- Multiple publications highlighted Brookings Mountain West student researcher Mary Blankenship’s study on Twitter misinformation: Las Vegas Sun (twice), The Toronto Star, Global News Canada, Brookings (twice)
- Las Vegas Review-Journal: Annika Roseen was crowned Mx. Native UNLV in a pageant created by the UNLV Native American Student Association as “a platform for indigenous leaders to spark meaningful change on important issues”
- Las Vegas Review-Journal: Cancer survivor Jorge “Fabian” Trejo-Ibarra used a Make-A-Wish Foundation scholarship to study pre-nursing at UNLV
- Voice of America (Korea) brought its College Tour program to UNLV, with students - and a few faculty - from engineering and hospitality showing off the latest technology in robotics, entertainment, and golf
The UNLV community mourned the loss of beloved colleagues this year, including emeritus professor of history Eugene Moehring, who died Feb. 17 at the age of 72; Felicia Campbell, UNLV’s longest-serving faculty member and trailblazer on the teaching of African American and Asian literature, who died July 27 of complications related to COVID-19; Jerry Vallen, founding dean of the Harrah College of Hospitality, who died July 30; and Sam Lieberman — an alumnus, Nevada System of Higher Education regent, and longtime higher education advocate — who was posthumously awarded an honorary doctorate following his April 3 death at the age of 58.
- UNLV Magazine: Spring 2020 and Fall 2020 Obituaries
- Felicia Campbell: The New York Times (twice), PBS NewsHour, KNPR, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Desert Companion, Antelope Valley Press
- Eugene Moehring: KNPR, Las Vegas Book Festival
- Sam Lieberman: Reno Gazette-Journal, Las Vegas Review-Journal, The Nevada Independent
- Jerry Vallen: Las Vegas Review-Journal, KLAS-TV: 8 News Now
Bret Birdsong — a UNLV law professor with expertise on public lands management, federal natural resources, water rights, food system, and conservation law — was named a member of the U.S. President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris environment transition team.
- Federal appointment: Forbes, Politico, S&P Global
- Expertise: The Nevada Independent (twice), Bloomberg, Forbes, RT
As the home of about 1,800 active-duty, reserve or veteran military members, UNLV proved why it was ranked by Military Times magazine as one of the nation’s best universities for veterans.
Several faculty, student, and alumni veterans made headlines for their work around campus or in the community.
- Ross Bryant, director of UNLV’s Military & Veteran Services Center and a veteran himself who served 24 years in the military, talked to KTNV-TV: ABC 13 about how he’s now giving back by helping other veterans and military-affiliated students transition to campus life at UNLV. He also spoke to the Las Vegas Review-Journal about ways a federal coronavirus relief law would impact student veterans.
- UNLV student Katherine Cassell was among 10 veterans nationwide selected for a Washington, D.C.-based VFW fellowship aimed at teaching student veterans to be community advocates, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
- Jackie Trujillo — a UNLV student, National Guard member, and Route 91 survivor — spoke to the Las Vegas Sun about her role fighting COVID-19 as part of a state task force.
- KLAS-TV: 8 News Now highlighted efforts by the Rebel Veteran Alumni group to help students transition from the battlefield to the classroom and into the working world.
- UNLV's ROTC program helped a Las Vegas Air Force veteran realize his dream, reported KTNV-TV: ABC 13.
UNLV was a top contender on several rankings lists — an accomplishment that wouldn’t have been possible without the support and hard work of faculty, staff, and students across our campuses. In March, multiple UNLV programs — 22 in all — cracked the top 100 in their fields in an annual report from U.S. News & World Report. In September, the outlet reported that UNLV maintained its standing as one of the nation’s most diverse universities for undergraduates — tying for second overall in the publication’s 2021 Best Colleges report on campus ethnic diversity, defined as schools where students are most likely to encounter others from racial or ethnic groups different from their own. In November, UNLV surged to the top 10 percent in CollegeNet, Inc.’s 2020 Social Mobility Index, an annual analysis that ranks four-year U.S. colleges and universities according to how effectively they enroll students from under-resourced backgrounds and graduate them into well-paying jobs.
- Top 100 Report: Las Vegas Sun
- Diversity: AP, Las Vegas Sun
- Social Mobility Index: Pahrump Valley Times, Nevada Business Magazine, Nevada Current
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