Carol C. Harter

Carol C. Harter - Seventh President, UNLV (1995–2006)

When I postponed my speech on September 11, I was faced with a very difficult decision on whether I should reschedule the speech. There were many good reasons for canceling completely or issuing the speech in written form. I decided not to cancel because I believe that it is important for us to come together as a university community, a community that has united in a special way since those horrible events of September 11.

I am proud of the manner in which people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, regions, and cultures on this campus have come together in unique and positive ways. I am proud of how all of you have worked to keep this wonderful institution running in a time of national tragedy and mourning. And I believe the university is a very critical place in a crisis such as we are facing. We may represent the only institution in our society that encourages unfettered debate and analysis, regardless of how unpopular or “politically incorrect” some opinions are. We shall continue to be that kind of place.

President Bush has asked us all to do our best to proceed with normal activities. Although nothing can be totally “normal” because of the events of the past month, I believe it is important to join together in the true spirit of community and collegiality. I hope that in some small way this traditional gathering will show everyone everywhere that UNLV is still a vibrant, functioning community.

Even in these uncertain times, I would like to begin my State of the University address by asking a traditional question, "Is the state of our university strong?” And I would add, “Is it strong despite our national challenges?”

It doesn't take a nanosecond for me to answer unequivocally: "Yes, UNLV is incredibly strong."

The next question must be: what are the measures of that strength? Are we accredited in every program for which we have sought accreditation and reaccreditation? Resoundingly yes, including law, physical therapy, and social work, to name a few of the toughest accreditations to acquire and maintain.

Are we continuing to grow? Yes, at a dramatic rate of over 8% in undergraduate FTE this fall, 7% overall, including 1630 new millennium scholars—bringing our total enrollment to nearly 24,000 students.

Did we raise significant private money this year? You bet we did, more than $21 million; in fact, over the last six years, we have raised $136 million, a remarkable amount for a young, public university.
Do we have people making long-term commitments? Yes we do. In the past five years individuals have committed $122 million to the Foundation through wills, legacies, and trusts.

Did we build more buildings? Right again, in fact we have built or are in the process of building thirteen new structures in six years — including our superb library — surely some kind of national record. We not only built a magnificent new library building but we reallocated more than $5 million in additional resources for library acquisitions, staff, and sophisticated technology to create one of the finest libraries in the Southwest. In fact, this wonderful new library hosted an astonishing 125,599 users and visitors in September alone, setting a pace for more than one million people in our first year!
Did we increase external research funding? Indeed we did, from $28.6 million to $36.8 million and will increase it dramatically this year as well, as substantial new earmarks for UNLV are in the federal budget pipeline right now.

It is important to note that the successes we have achieved are beginning to be noticed nationally. In the most recent issue of U.S. News and World Report’s annual “America’s Best Colleges” guidebook, UNLV is now ranked within the National Doctoral Universities category. This classification ranks us along with 249 other doctoral granting degree universities, many of which strongly emphasize research. This is wonderful news for us, and we are committed to continuing to move up within that classification.

Did we get everything we needed and wanted from the state legislature? Heavens no, although the addition of 4% COLA to our employees' salaries each year of the biennium is a wonderful thing and we profusely thank the chancellor who fought for us and a governor and legislators who made this possible in an otherwise fairly grim budget year. Now we can only hope to hold this gain as the state reviews revenues in light of the emerging economic downturn.
Do we have major challenges? Yes indeed, including the ability to teach and serve nearly 1250 additional students with virtually no additional operating resources.

Despite fiscal challenges, I truly believe we are one of the most important resources that the State of Nevada has in its midst to develop a positive future. In many ways, we are the jewel in the crown. Few universities in the country are situated in a city booming the way Las Vegas is booming.

Fewer still compete for funds with a relatively small number of other institutions. Fewer yet are centered in the heart of a metropolis that has more potential for life-changing and quality enhancing activity than Las Vegas.

The fact that we are now on the map of anyone in the world who knows food and restaurants is a phenomenon that has occurred in a mere five years. The fact that we are home to several world-class hotels as well as five star restaurants has happened in the same short period and we are now adding museum quality art to the expanding cultural scene in the valley.

The fact that we are the first American City of Asylum, recognizing artists under political duress, surely transcends the myth of Las Vegas that has dogged us for decades.
Surely the blaring headline of the June 11th U.S. News and World Report is prescient: SIN CITY NO MORE: WHY LAS VEGAS IS THE FACE OF AMERICA'S FUTURE.
In case you haven't seen it, or read it recently, I quote from the first paragraph of that article:

"…only a few blocks east of the famous Strip — past the replicas of the Sphinx and the Eiffel Tower, the quickie wedding chapels, the majestic fountains that dance like showgirls to the recorded voices of Frank Sinatra and Luciano Pavarotti — is the campus of the University of Nevada, where you might just come across the Nobel Prize-winning playwright Wole Soyinka. In town to lecture last year, the 67-year-old Nigerian — who was once a political prisoner in his native land—confided to a local writer that he was having trouble recruiting American cities for the ‘City of Asylum’ program that he had helped launch in the wake of the fatwa against Salman Rushdie… Admitting that he ‘once marveled that anyone could survive here in a creative way,’ Soyinka… now finds that anything is possible in what he calls ‘this most unlikely city’” and, as our resident Nobel Laureate, will be presenting an important lecture here on October 29th aptly titled “Faith, Rights, and Terror.”

Just as one of our superb historians, Hal Rothman, says of our city: "Las Vegas is the first city of the 21st century," likewise we add: "UNLV is the first university of the 21st century."
And I am genuinely excited by that designation, as I know you are.

We are already poised to develop into a premier research university and are trying to accomplish that feat while remaining committed to high quality undergraduate education and to focusing on the student learning experience.

We have worked with UNR to successfully craft a joint proposal for Regents review at their meeting next week to increase the standards for eligibility for admission to both universities. Enhanced selectivity and quality are characteristics that must define the university's life just as it is beginning to define the quality of life in Las Vegas.
Moreover, we are beginning to partner with our city, our state, our business and agency friends in a multitude of ways that will bring economic growth and development to our state and create centers of academic excellence simultaneously.

If we could have our way, we would create endowed chairs to be held by international superstars including an occasional additional Nobel Laureate in fields such as economics or physics or other areas that might catapult us into the national limelight, as Wole Soyinka's appointment here and the creation of the Institute for Modern Letters and the City of Asylum have already done.

But a few superstars do not alone make a university great. A superb faculty across the board does that and we have been hiring many, many wonderful faculty from the finest institutions in the country and abroad to augment the many fine people who already have made their professional lives here.

We are also blessed with a talented and hard-working pool of classified and professional employees who work tirelessly to further the university’s mission by performing a multitude of challenging tasks. I would compare our increasingly diverse faculty and staff with any in the country and applaud the good work you do on a daily basis.

So what else must be done to assist UNLV to reach premier research university status and to persuade the State and the City that we are their most important resource for the development of human capital and economic diversification?

Given the added impetus of current events, it seems to me a recentering on our urban character, our metropolitan location, our civic mission is clearly called for.

As the U.S. News article points out, Las Vegas may be at the forefront of giving an incredibly diverse group of people at all ends of the economic spectrum enhanced opportunities — and for them we continue to offer and develop an enormous number of sometimes unique educational programs — but we must also deal with "not only breathtaking opportunities and dreams fulfilled but also some of the saddest social statistics in the country."

As we already know, Las Vegas is something of a paradox. It is the land of dreams for many, but, simultaneously, Clark County "has almost 70 percent of the population of a state that leads the nation in its rates of suicide, high school dropouts, deaths by firearms, teenage pregnancies, and deaths from smoking."

So we need to be at both ends of the Las Vegas spectrum: creating incredibly sophisticated science and high technology resources at the same time our artists, humanists, and social scientists create high culture here and help solve major community problems like those identified above.

That paradox is at the heart of a university in the heart of a paradoxical city: we must assist our neighbors and our citizens bring special resources to problem-solving at the same time we help them make a living and enjoy a higher quality of life.

We must create an environment for new business, new health care options, new culture to join us, but we must also make our city a place that has the highest standards for quality of life, for K–12 education, for enlightened government. The challenges may be even greater than we realize as displaced workers look to us for opportunities for alternative career preparation unanticipated in the previous vigorous local economy: new opportunities for people, new opportunities for us.

We can meet these challenges by recalling our urban mission. We have revisited opportunities in downtown Las Vegas, in North Las Vegas, in the medical district off West Charleston, and right across Maryland Parkway for the acquisition of more land and the development of our campus in the urban core.

Much as Mayor Goodman has committed himself to urban development, we may wish to commit ourselves to becoming the finest urban research university in the country, nourishing our city, our county, and fully developing our metropolitan character.

When he was Mayor of Atlanta, Andrew Young recognized the need for metropolitan universities to shape the qualities of the cities of which they were a part: “At the local level, there’s a crying out in urban America for people to do for urban America what state universities did in the last century for rural America. We have the most productive agricultural system in the history of the world. It did not come about by accident. It came about through land-grant colleges. It came about through state farm programs. It came about as a result of the integration of the university system with the agricultural community. The benefits that accrued from that relationship fed not only America but the whole world. A similar kind of relationship between universities and the cities is necessary.”

As the modern manifestation of a land grant university, we are, of course, already off to a terrific start.

With the continued assistance of our College of Education, we are producing more teachers yearly and assisting the school district to meet some of its many pressing needs.

With the help of our Colleges of Health Sciences and Urban Affairs, we are producing more educated professionals in a host of health-related and social-change occupations.

With a significant component of community service in the Law School curriculum, we are staffing a major clinic to help victims of domestic abuse and violence against children as well as assist those who could not possibly afford to hire their own attorneys.

With the downtown center we are offering some wonderful courses through extended studies, but that center could also offer all manner of coursework to people working in the urban core with degrees in areas like Criminal Justice, Public Administration, and Workforce Education.

And with a vast array of centers and institutes devoted to urban issues — for real estate, transportation studies, for aging, for Business and Economic Research, Energy Research, Health Promotion, Family Counseling, and an enormous array of environmental challenges, we are giving back to our city in important ways.

And, in planning our dental school, our cancer institute, our biomedically related research and development, we are looking to locate these activities in the city of Las Vegas, very likely somewhere in the downtown area. Ideally, in a partnership with UNR and the School of Medicine, we will be involved in the creation of an academic medical center, an extremely critical need in our city.

You have all heard the joke: "Where do you go when you need healthcare?" The answer: "McCarran Airport." We want to be part of creating opportunities that change this perspective dramatically.
Some aspect of all our health and biomedical technology programs, as well as the dental, medical, and pharmacy schools should be integrated into the highest quality, holistically planned medical and allied health complex.

Whether we are able to build such a facility on the mayor's 61 acres or somewhere else in the City of Las Vegas, we will be adding a dimension to the quality of life here that is a critical component of the great cities in our country and in our world. And UNLV will be an integral part of that development.

Recognizing the wisdom of Mayor Young’s admonition for UNLV’s future, and, in order to facilitate the recentering of the university toward its urban mission and toward metropolitan land and facilities acquisition and development, I plan to create a blue ribbon “think tank” called the “Council for Community/University Collaborations” whose leadership will include Mayor Goodman and several community representatives. I have asked Regents Thalia Dondero, Linda Howard, and Howard Rosenberg to serve on this Council as well in order to be certain our institutional planning is aligned with system planning.

Because the Greenspun family so enthusiastically shares our vision of the University’s community role, the Greenspun College of Urban Affairs was created to focus many of its efforts on outreach as it brings together what were a disparate group of programs into a dynamic organizational structure that increasingly serves the community exceedingly well.

I have, therefore, asked Dean Martha Watson, along with Vice President Juanita Fain, to co-chair the council at the operational level and to involve faculty, staff, Foundation and student leadership, and community representatives in discussions that explore a variety of avenues to enhance the linkages between the university and the community in special and constructive ways.

Advancing UNLV’s Planning Goal #7, to “Communicate and Collaborate More Effectively,” this Council will help us think through how we expand, geographically and programmatically, UNLV's presence in the city, the county, and in the valley to aggrandize both our university and the neighborhoods that have invited us to take up permanent residence among them.

Another major aspect of our work for the community (and for the world) is, of course, to strengthen dramatically the production of professionals and the creation of new knowledge and research in the sciences, engineering, and high technology, whatever the traditional disciplinary home.

To that end, I have been working with a group of senior academic leaders inside the university, as well as expert community members, including the Executive Committee of the Nevada Development Authority, to identify our research strengths — particularly those that have direct applicability to the needs, opportunities, and challenges of Nevada and of Nevada as an increasingly important player in national affairs.

Provost Alden is working closely with all the academic deans to develop macrothemes that will guide future programming and research.

Among areas of enormous potential are those related to issues and problems that are central to Nevada's identity and to its future. Just one example of such an area is Entertainment Technologies, which encompasses the work of diverse disciplines such as Architecture, Electrical and Computing Engineering, Fine Arts, Business, Hotel Administration, and Liberal Arts.

As another example, we are working on a major project to integrate, collate, and create a common database for the management of decades of records related to people’s exposure to radiation at the Test Site. This project involves our supercomputer and faculty in several disciplines, including sociology, and has brought us $3 million in federal support this year with $6 million in the proposed budget for next year.

Our new and very energetic Research Foundation Board sees this high technology project as the nexus for a research park modeled on the tripartite partnership of government, private business, and higher education that has been so successful at institutions such as Arizona State, the University of California at Irvine, and the University of New Orleans.

And, however much we wish it otherwise, given the possible activity at Yucca Mountain, UNLV is the natural place to engage in research that has the potential to make life-saving contributions to activity that may define a major part of Nevada's economic and ecological future.

As an example of such activity, researchers in the Harry Reid Center have partnered with science and engineering faculty and the DOE to create an innovative program to convert hazardous waste into benign byproducts. This project's federal funding is also expected to receive $8.75 million in the next year, up from $3 million this year.
That these projects are becoming so important to our research efforts and federal funding reflects the wonderful support we have from Senator Harry Reid. His commitment to addressing the major problems facing Nevada's citizens and finding positive ways to address those problems through university research efforts and the development of relevant educational programs is a marvelous development for UNLV and for the other research entities in the UCCSN with whom we will be collaborating.

We are also exploring with our Congressional delegation and Mayors Goodman and Montadon land acquisition that will allow UNLV to develop research parks, study centers, or regional campuses in several parts of our valley in addition to the urban core, which will continue to be so central to our future development.

Even though we are exploring possibilities for expansion throughout the Las Vegas Valley, we must not forget our little city on campus. We need to look at carefully using the remaining scarce space on the 335 acres of our central campus. The newly completed expansion of Tonopah Hall makes it possible for 433 more students to live on campus—as more students live on campus there will be a dramatic change in our campus culture. In fact, Vice President Mills reports that a major increase in student life activities has already occurred as a direct result of an expanded residential community.

We are therefore planning to start another dormitory as soon as possible. That facility, in conjunction with a potential expansion of the student union and facilities in McDermott Physical Education Center, will enhance our campus community and begin to develop the critical mass for a true community of scholars. Our purchase of the Boy Scout Building will also provide much needed land for a major structure in the future.

These are indeed exciting times for UNLV and we are increasingly a model of the “engaged university.” I began by saying that the State of the University is strong and vibrant. I hope that you agree. I often tell audiences that I am honored to be the president of one of the most challenging and exciting universities in the world. I hope that my enthusiasm has been apparent today.