The Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) Board of Regents voted to appoint Dr. Keith Whitfield as UNLV’s new president. He becomes UNLV’s 11th permanent president and the first Black president in the university’s 63-year history.
Dr. Whitfield, currently the provost and senior vice president of academic affairs and a professor of psychology at Wayne State University in Detroit, will begin Aug. 24 and serve a four-year contract.
Prior to his time at Wayne State University, Whitfield was vice provost for academic affairs at Duke University and held appointments as professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, research professor in the Department of Geriatric Medicine at Duke University Medical Center, and senior fellow at the Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development. He also was the co-director of the Center on Biobehavioral Health Disparities Research.
“Dr. Whitfield is a highly respected educator, researcher, and administrator. His experience boosting student success at Wayne State University will serve UNLV well. And his knowledge and understanding of leading a diverse student population – Wayne State University’s student population mirrors UNLV in terms of diversity – affords him the familiarity to tackle UNLV’s unique challenges head on,” said NSHE chancellor Thom Reilly. “I am confident Dr. Whitfield is the right person to lead the university at this time.”
As provost of Wayne State University, Whitfield is responsible for faculty hiring, promotion and tenure, and budget and policies for faculty and staff. He is also responsible for student affairs, including student success, curriculum, housing and other student related auxiliaries. Under his leadership, the university achieved remarkable gains in its graduation rate, increased overall enrollment, launched an innovation and entrepreneurship hub, and strengthened multiple business and philanthropic relationships.
An active administrator and researcher, Whitfield has authored or co-authored over 200 publications and has earned funding from the National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Aging (NIA), and the National Science Foundation. His current research focuses on the relationship between stress and longevity in African American families. He’s a member of the NIA’s National Advisory Council on Aging.
“This is truly, truly an honor. UNLV is a university that I have great respect for, and to be able to be a part of that is something I can’t express in words,” said Dr. Whitfield in his remarks to the Board of Regents following his appointment. “I’m going to make sure you see the kind of stewardship and momentum-building that you’ve seen from Marta Meana, and I’ll continue to lead this university to greatness.”
Dr. Whitfield was one of four finalists who interviewed with UNLV students, faculty, employees, and community members since Monday. The ad hoc UNLV President Search Committee, made up of 29 members, including members of the Board of Regents, UNLV faculty, classified staff, students, and community stakeholders, recommended Dr. Whitfield for the job on Wednesday.
“Dr. Whitfield is committed to and understands UNLV’s mission as a research institution and its relationship to Las Vegas and Nevada,” said Board of Regents Chair Mark Doubrava. “His breadth of experience shows he has excellent management skills and is admired by students and faculty alike.”
The search committee used in-person interviews and live-stream technology to ensure an inclusive and transparent search process, while conducting the search in consideration for the health and well-being of all those involved.
“I want to thank everyone involved in the search, especially UNLV’s students, faculty, staff and community members who participated in-person and virtually,” said Regent Trevor Hayes, who chaired the ad hoc UNLV President Search Committee. “Chancellor Reilly and the hiring firm, Wheless Search and Consulting, gave us four outstanding candidates to choose from, and I believe the committee made an excellent decision in recommending Dr. Whitfield to be UNLV’s next president.”
The son of a U.S. Air Force Lt. Colonel, Whitfield received a bachelor’s in psychology from the College of Santa Fe and master’s and Ph.D. degrees in life span Developmental Psychology from Texas Tech University and did post-doctoral work in quantitative genetics at the University of Colorado, Boulder.