Two students are debating with one another.

Newsmakers 2018: Student Success

Student achievements including competition wins, a world record, and new innovations splashed local and national news headlines in 2018.

The lifeblood of UNLV’s success can be traced through the achievements of the students who call the university home. In 2018, student and alumni accomplishments elevated the university in countless ways, from meteoric rises for nascent student groups, to pioneering student organizations that celebrate UNLV’s diversity.

Below is a small sampling of daring UNLV students who made the news in 2018.

Debate Dreams

In a little more than 10 years, UNLV’s public policy debate squad has made a name for itself, going head-to-head with and triumphing over other university teams with decades of history and wins behind them. In the team’s 11th season, debaters put in about 40 hours of work every week to prepare for each tournament, while also keeping their eyes on the national championship. As the wins piled up over the season, the squad — with debaters Matthew Gomez and Jeffrey Horn at the helm — entered the championship tournament with a No. 3 ranking.

At the National Debate Tournament, Gomez and Horn made it to the quarterfinals round, which is the team’s best ever championship finish. In addition, Gomez and Horn were also ranked as the 12th- and 15th-best individual speakers, respectively, at the debate. They’re the first two UNLV debaters to rank that high.

Electronic Excellence

Three years ago, UNLV offered the first-ever academic course and lab that asks students to envision a viable business model for the newest gaming-related phenomena: esports. In 2018, the university ushered in another first — a championship win in the inaugural Mountain West esports showdown — in what’s become a burgeoning industry.

UNLV’s student club team 8-bit defeated Boise State at home at the Cox Pavilion. The team won two of three events — Overwatch and League of Legends — to become champions.

A Journey to 30

UNLV first joined Hailey Dawson’s journey four years ago when College of Engineering students and faculty teamed up with Dawson to design and build her a 3D-printed prosthetic hand from scratch. That journey culminated this September when Dawson, 8, achieved her dream of throwing out the first pitch at all 30 Major League Baseball parks — a Guiness World Record. She also dropped the puck at a Golden Knights game in February. It was an inspirational feat, one that was cheered on from the sidelines by another inspiring young woman — UNLV biomedical engineering student Maria Gerardi. Gerardi worked hand-in-hand with Hailey to create 30 different 3D-printed hands to reflect each MLB team. Gerardi also made sure to leave enough room for Hailey to get the all-important autographs from her favorite players.

Outstanding Students

In 2018, UNLV students proved that they don’t have to wait until graduation before making a difference. Students embodied the Rebel attributes of being daring, diverse, and different throughout the year and through numerous activities and competition wins. Among them: a new student group encourages minority and Latino students to choose the health care field; a student’s gaming innovation earned a patent; UNLV accounting students garnered their second win at the National Student Case Competition; and a group of 10 students are learning to be “Top Gun” educators.

  • UNLV group aims to serve Latino pre-med students (Las Vegas Sun)
  • UNLV wants to create top-notch teachers with ‘Top Gun’ program (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
  • UNLV freshman is college coed by day and CEO at night helping the homeless (KTNV)
  • UNLV wins 2018 IMA National Student Case Competition (Accounting Today)
  • UNLV student paving the way for women in her major (KVVU)
  • UNLV dance team wins College National Championship (KVVU)
  • UNLV student has a solution to remove edge-sorting from casinos (Play USA)
  • Magic Words: A dashing young mentalist debuts in the Strip’s first Spanish-language residency (Vegas Seven)
  • A UNLV-based advocacy group aims to diversity local theater (Las Vegas Weekly)

Awesome Alumni

Student success is on full display every year at the university’s two commencement ceremonies. But the achievements don’t end once students leave campus. Several recent UNLV graduates and other alumni made the news in 2018 for overcoming adversity, their commitment to community and innovation, their ingenuity and beating the odds.

  • Volunteers in Medicine strives for more inclusive health care (Las Vegas Sun)
  • These Roommates Changed Their Lives for a Sandwich -- and Built a Franchise Empire (Entrepreneur)
  • With cancer under control, UNLV grad has new bucket list (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
  • 16-year-old graduates from UNLV with 3.9 GPA, will return for law school (KSNV-TV)
  • UNLV doctoral candidate Breanna Boppre has turned a childhood of visitation days into a career focused on the forgotten people behind prison walls and their rehabilitation (A Beautiful Perspective)
  • Anthony Lynn Gets his Degree for his Players, for his Family and for Himself (Sports Illustrated)
  • New Air Force innovation hub in Las Vegas looks to future (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
  • UNLV grad to open Nevada’s first cat cafe in Las Vegas (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
  • UNLV grad helps Hawaii families displaced by Kilauea eruption (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
  • UNLV graduate, bound for medical school, crowned Miss Nevada (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
  • UNLV grad overcomes acute adversity, highlights winter commencement (Las Vegas Sun)

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