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Water and the Work Place

Water Authority executive Pat Mulroy spends a week as a visiting scholar and encourages engineering students to keep an eye on the big picture.
Business & Community  |  Oct 10, 2013  |  By UNLV News Center
Pat Mulroy spent a week as a visiting executive scholar in residence at UNLV. (R. Marsh Starks/UNLV Photo Services)

To longtime Las Vegas residents, the name Pat Mulroy is well known. Since 1989, she has served as general manager of the Las Vegas Valley Water District, and was a principal architect of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, which she also serves as general manager. And for a week this fall, she assumed a new position: visiting executive scholar in residence at UNLV.

Her packed schedule included lectures, lab visits, and luncheons with students and faculty. The experience offered great insight into the university. "I now have a much better appreciation for UNLV's role as a partner to overall economic and workforce development in Southern Nevada," she said.

Her main message to students was that, while there sometimes exists a chasm between the academic and pragmatic worlds, communication between the two is vital for success. "I wanted the students to see that there are often limitations to possibilities -- cultural and political -- that have to be taken into consideration."

Students who attended Mulroy's water talk heard that loud and clear. Civil and environmental engineering senior Timmie Winston said, "I learned that engineers have to be aware of politics and the big picture in order to get done what needs to get done."

Classmate Marco Velarde added, "Ms. Mulroy's experience with politics and projects here in the Valley and around the world has broadened our spectrums and taught us to not just focus solely on the job."

Her insights as a woman in a historically male-dominated industry also struck a chord with female students, particularly Mary Murphy, a civil and environmental engineering senior. "There is a misperception out there that as a woman, you have to choose between work and your family. Ms. Mulroy is inspirational in showing that both can be balanced."

College of Engineering faculty relished the chance to spend time with Mulroy. Daniel Gerrity, a civil and environmental engineering and construction professor, remarked, "There are very few people that share her level of experience dealing with the various facets of water policy, and it was a privilege to hear those experiences firsthand."

Other professors, also heavily involved in research related to water, agreed. "Ms. Mulroy's emphasis on the need to improve a systemwide mutual understanding and cooperation between all users of the Colorado River made me realize that we can also improve cooperation among the universities in those user states," said Haroon Stephen, a civil and environmental engineering professor. "We can work more collaboratively to research and find mutually acceptable solutions to water issues."

Mulroy, '75 BA and '77 MA German Literature, said it was hard to choose what aspect of the experience she enjoyed the most. "I'd have to say it was a toss-up between interaction with the professors and staff and interaction with students," she said. "I really enjoyed going into the classrooms, because I used to be a teaching assistant here years ago."