The close of 2020 left the world somewhat relieved, with many hanging on to the hopes of a better new year. As the world ushered in the first weeks of 2021, however, events on the national stage — a riot at the U.S. Capitol Building, a presidential inauguration, the emergence of new COVID-19 strains — left many Americans feeling like we might still be stuck in 2020.
But there have been some bright spots, both nationally and at UNLV.
The COVID-19 vaccine rollout is underway across the country, with UNLV and the Nevada System of Higher Education playing a key role in getting shots distributed in the Silver State. Other major changes include the official retirement of Hey Reb!, and continuing construction on the UNLV School of Medicine’s new medical education building. All the while, UNLV experts continue to offer their expertise on ongoing topics such as the presidential inauguration and vaccine distribution.
With a fresh start for opportunity, healing, and growth, UNLV begins the new year with resilience and alacrity.
The Vaccine Dream
January marked the one-year anniversary of the first COVID-19 case in the U.S. Since then, more than 400,000 Americans have died from the virus, with new daily cases reaching a peak of 300,000 in early January. The time for widespread vaccine distribution has finally arrived, and about 25 million Americans have received at least one dose of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine.
UNLV, in partnership with the Nevada System of Higher Education, is one of the many institutions that have begun to effectively administer COVID-19 vaccines to faculty, staff, health care workers, and community members, explaining the eligibility and registration required to receive a dose in the Las Vegas Review-Journal (twice). University experts offered their perspectives, advice, and guidance on the vaccines and how to register.
- Public health professor Erika Marquez explained the importance of engaging with diverse communities on vaccine distribution: AP, Yahoo!, and KLAS-TV: 8 News Now.
- Public health professor Brian Labus highlighted vaccine allocation and eligibility, as well as COVID-19 variants the importance of herd immunity:
- Director of Bioethics Johan Bester discussed prioritization of vaccine distribution, as well as a public appraisal for receiving a vaccine with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, KTNV-TV: ABC 13, El Tiempo, and KLAS-TV: 8 News Now.
- Vice Dean for Clinical Affairs Michael Gardner gave KVVU-TV: FOX 5 and KSNV-TV: News 3 (twice) a look inside UNLV’s vaccine distribution site.
- School of Medicine dean Marc J. Kahn stressed the need for convalescent plasma donors to combat the coronavirus on KLAS-TV: 8 News Now.
Hey Reb! Officially Retires
Following an extensive listening tour, UNLV President Keith E. Whitfield updated the campus community this month about the status of UNLV’s nickname and mascot.
While it’s been less noticeable because of the pandemic and lack of public events, The Hey Reb! mascot has been retired since last spring and there are no plans to bring it back. Whitfield said that the campus community is moving forward with a decision made by then-President Marta Meana who had a statue of Hey Reb! removed from the main campus late last spring.
In the campus message, Whitfield also announced that the “Rebels” nickname will remain.
“It captures the essence of an iconic city that is unconventional and celebrates its independence, tenacity, and resiliency,” he said. “Rebels have a purpose or motivation for a greater cause and are not afraid to take risks to make incredible things happen.”
- AP, Fox News, CBS Sports, TMZ, Bleacher Report, KNPR, The Nevada Independent, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Las Vegas Sun (twice), KTNV-TV: ABC 13, KLAS-TV: 8 News Now (twice), KVVU-TV: FOX 5, KTVN
- African American & African Diaspora Studies director Javon Johnson explained the reasons behind Hey Reb!’s removal to the Reno Gazette-Journal.
The Capitol Riot – An Analysis
On Jan. 6, a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol. The riot caused five fatalities, the evacuation of government officials, and the lockdown of the Capitol building. The surprising turn of events led to many citizens questioning the preventative measures that could have been taken, the differences between previous Capitol protests, and the stability and safety of the national government. University experts offered their analysis on the riot and what may lie ahead.
- Associate professor of journalism and media studies Stephen Bates and assistant professor of communication studies Natalie Pennington analyzed the consequences of shutting down Henderson-based app Parler in response to the Capitol riot on KTNV-TV: ABC 13 (twice).
- Sociology professor Robert Futrell discussed the dilemma of far-right-wing and white supremacy groups on influential platforms with Bloomberg, KTNV-TV: ABC 13, and the Las Vegas Sun.
- Associate professor of psychology Stephen D. Benning weighed in on how the public might respond to the Capitol riot: KSNV-TV: News 3.
- Associate professor of history Michael Green discussed the historical significance of the Capitol riot, with the Las Vegas Sun, KVVU-TV: FOX 5, and KSNV-TV: News 3.
- Assistant Professor of African American and African Diaspora Studies Tyler D. Parry identified differences in law enforcement actions at Black Lives Matter protests on KLAS-TV: 8 News Now.
The Presidential Inauguration
New year, new presidency – after months of political debates, mail-in ballots, and claims of voter fraud, a new administration has finally begun. UNLV’s experts tapped into challenges the new administration might face and offered their insight and analysis on the nation’s priorities and the president’s background.
- Law professor Francine J. Lipman discussed the corporate tax rate with Forbes.
- Assistant professor in educational psychology and higher education Stefani Relles spoke to KLAS-TV: 8 News Now about President Joe Biden’s executive order on student loans.
- Assistant professor in political science Dan Lee analyzed Donald Trump’s impact on the Republican party in the Las Vegas Sun.
- UNLV economist Stephen Miller projected economic recovery by the end of 2021 on VOA.
- Distinguished Fellow in Gaming Law Anthony Cabot discussed security measures in place in Nevada casinos with Casino.Org.
Construction Underway on School of Medicine Building
Despite continued impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, construction remains on track for the UNLV School of Medicine’s new academic building. In October, the community celebrated a groundbreaking for the building, and in early January, the first concrete was poured. And then, on Jan. 19, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak announced his proposed budget during his State of the State address, which includes the restoration of $25 million for the project. The 135,000-square-foot building located on Shadow Lane in central Las Vegas is projected to be completed in summer 2022.
- KNPR, Las Vegas Review-Journal, KVVU-TV: FOX 5 (twice), KLAS-TV: 8 News Now (twice), KSNV-TV: News 3, KTNV-TV: ABC 13 (twice)
CES vs. COVID-19
Every January, Las Vegas gleams as a mecca for technology and innovation during the annual trade show CES. This year, the pandemic forced the convention to go virtual, impacting both the hospitality and travel industry within Southern Nevada. UNLV experts highlighted CES and its virtual accomplishments this year, as well as their predictions of how the Las Vegas economy will fare in the coming months.
- Associate professor in political science Rebecca Gill discussed the importance of female speakers at CES in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
- Distinguished fellow in responsible gaming Alan Feldman examined the economic impact of the 2020 CES trade show with the Las Vegas Review-Journal and El Tiempo.
- Gaming historian David G. Schwartz told Casino.Org that visitors to Southern Nevada will increase once the pandemic is over.
- Associate professor in gender and sexuality studies Lynn Comella offered insight on sex tech emergence during the CES convention in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
General Expert Roundup
- UNLV president Keith E. Whitfield delivers his first State of the University Address – virtually – with coverage in the Las Vegas Sun and on KLAS-TV: 8 News Now.
- Three of UNLV’s online programs ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the best in the nation: KTNV-TV: ABC 13.
- UNLV student-athletes shatter department GPA records in Fall 2020: KTNV-TV: ABC 13 and KLAS-TV: 8 News Now have the story.
- Governor Sisolak visits UNLV physicist Ashkan Salamat’s lab for an inside look into superconductivity: AP, KSNV-TV: News 3.
- On January 11, Las Vegas Sands founder Sheldon Adelson passed away at the age of 87. UNLV experts reflected on his legacy: the legend and how his passing may affect the Las Vegas Sands.
- History professor Michael Green reflects on Sheldon Adelson’s legacy in The Washington Post.
- Gaming historian David Schwartz talks about Adelson's legacy on KLAS-TV: 8 News Now.
- Distinguished fellow in responsible gaming Alan Feldman, Gaming historian David Schwartz, and International Gaming Institute executive director Bo Bernhard reflect on Adelson’s legacy and the future of the Las Vegas Sands on Las Vegas Review-Journal and El Tiempo.
- Gaming historian David Schwartz on how casino companies are expanding into new forms of gambling: AP.
- Bradley Marianno explained the situation of children returning to classrooms on Yahoo!, KLAS-TV: 8 News Now, and El Tiempo.
- Brett Abarbanel, director of research for the International Gaming Institute, discussed with Yahoo! how the gaming industry has been impacted by COVID-19.
- Sociology professor Barbara G. Brents explained in the New York Times the appeal of online sex work for Americans.
- College of Engineering Dean Rama Venkat explained the importance of the senior design competition in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
- Doctoral student Nicole Santero analyzed the culture of the BTS fandom on BBC and Medium.
- Communications professor Emma Frances Bloomfield offered tips to KTNV-TV: ABC 13 on how to receive a “balanced diet” of news, and talked about climate change communication with Grist.
- Psychology professor Stephen Benning offered insight on how to combat COVID-19 fatigue in the Phoenix Business Journal.
- Jason Steffen, professor of physics and astronomy at UNLV, discussed the “Steffen method” with Wired.
- Samantha Coogan, director of the Didactic Program in Nutrition & Dietetics, offered tips on sensible snacking on Las Vegas Weekly.
- History professor Michael Green and history department chair Andy Kirk reflected on Nevada’s history of nuclear testing in the Las Vegas Review-Journal and El Tiempo.
- Associate professor of law Benjamin Edwards examined the possibility of class-action lawsuits against Robinhood Markets in Bloomberg.