I am honored to present my 10th State of the University Address, titled “Covenant with Community,” to the entire “extended family” of UNLV. Often I find it hard to believe that I am well into my 10th year as your president; and yet I simultaneously marvel at how much has been accomplished in what is really such a short period of time — the blink of an eye in the otherwise long and distinguished history of higher education in America.
Part I: Celebration! A Decade of Advancements
UNLV has accomplished many incredible things in this dynamic decade: In fact, all of you collectively have transformed us into a major, national Research II or Research-Intensive university, moving rapidly to Research I or Research-Extensive status. In that process and with the help of many, many people, UNLV has accomplished the following:
We have increased enrollment by more than 35%, from approximately 20,000 to more than 27,000 students. Doctoral headcount enrollment has grown 215% (not including professional school enrollment) since 1994.
UNLV has increased faculty and professional staff by 63%, expanding from 972 to 1,585, recruiting people from the finest universities not only in the U.S., but in the world.
UNLV is becoming more diverse:
- Nearly one-half of the newly hired faculty and staff are women.
- Of the total student body, student diversity increased from 18% to 30.5%.
- Faculty and staff diversity increased from 14.8% to 19.2%, an overall increase from 144 to 305 individuals in less than a decade.
- Hispanic Business magazine recently named UNLV's Boyd School of Law one of the nation's Top 10 law schools for Hispanic students (UNLV ranked 9th).
During just this last decade, we conferred 51.4% (or 32,698) of all degrees in UNLV’s entire 47-year history.
This fall, UNLV has enrolled more than 6,000 Millennium Scholars.
We have added an astonishing number of new academic programs to meet community and state needs: 103, including 53% at the graduate level.
We have created two new professional schools in Law and Dental Medicine as well as professional programs in Architecture, Physical Therapy, and Public Health. Moreover, the nursing program was elevated to a School of Nursing as part of the Division of Health Sciences. (In addition, we are requesting funding support for a joint pharmacy program with UNR in the next biennial budget.)
- We have expanded honors education from a “program” of 300 students to a free-standing college in 1997, now enrolling 700 students.
- The Honors College scholarship endowment has grown from $30,000 to $2.5 million and we enrolled seven new National Merit Scholars this fall.
- In response to student needs, UNLV created a new degree-granting unit designed to enhance retention and graduation rates and to offer an inter-disciplinary degree option.
- In this, its first year, University College already enrolls 1,734 students.
- We have added three new women’s sports programs — volleyball, soccer, and golf — increasing by 17% women athletes participating at the highest levels of NCAA competition.
- Approximately $34 million has been allocated to women’s sports programs.
- We have hired two nationally known and highly regarded coaches in John Robinson and Lon Kruger.
- The men’s golf program, under the leadership of Coach Dwaine Knight, is a model for academic and athletic excellence:
- Ryan Moore – won five amateur titles and he is a returning senior. Moore is the ONLY amateur player to ever accomplish this feat in a single year (not even Tiger Woods did this).
- Chad Campbell and Chris Riley – former UNLV players, are both competing in this year’s Ryder Cup. They have pledged $180,000 of their prize money to the Hotel College’s golf management program.
During less than a decade, we have built 17 buildings, including our magnificent and user-friendly library, renovated six more, and are planning the Science, Engineering, and Technology Building, the Greenspun Building (partially funded by the Greenspun family), and $91 million in student-centered facilities.
- UNLV has acquired land in three parts of the valley totaling 773 acres (more than twice the size of the main campus), building an entire new campus at Shadow Lane.
- As part of that land acquisition, UNLV received a 115-acre parcel located in a booming area of southwest Las Vegas for the development of the Harry Reid Research and Technology Park.
Private Fund Raising
- In this last decade, we have raised $214 million in cash and gifts and $142 million in pledges. In addition, we are aware of $100 million in “estate expectancies.”
- Even without counting potential legacies, UNLV has raised a remarkable $356 million in private funds for programs, faculty, students, and facilities.
- During this same period, we increased the number of gifts from 3,900 to 9,400.
External and Research Funding
- UNLV has tripled external dollars from $19 million to $73.4 million, including research dollar increases from $14 million to $58 million.
- We also created the UNLV Research Foundation to help stimulate research productivity and to partner with various organizations and businesses in an effort to foster new economic development opportunities.
- It is startlingly clear that there is much to celebrate already at UNLV and we are on a straight trajectory to the top of the academic totem pole, as it were.
Part II: "Learning, Discovery, Engagement"
This phenomenal growth and development has been accompanied by an evolving awareness that we are defined partly by where and who we are as a specific higher education type.
We are a METROPOLITAN RESEARCH UNIVERSITY and, as such, we have worked very hard to become a resource, a partner, and a source of pride for our community as we collectively strive to enhance the quality of life and raise the levels of attainment of individuals and of a whole culture and society. And we are accomplishing these things despite the fact that direct state support for 2003 was only 32% of UNLV’s overall budget (a reduction from 41% in 1994.)
We are also accomplishing this intense engagement with community despite the fact that research shows how often faculty of major universities seem oblivious to community needs — and sometimes practice “civic disengagement” (SEE BARRY CHECKOWAY IN “RENEWING THE CIVIC MISSION OF THE AMERICAN UNIVERSITY” April 2001).
UNLV has attempted to hire and nurture people — both faculty and staff — including many wonderful classified employees — who achieve satisfaction and intrinsic rewards from being contributors to a common good, whether that good be scientific, artistic, social, intellectual, or economic.
By seeking out and encouraging an outward-looking perspective, we have begun to do what the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges believes modern universities must do: Change the emphasis from the now traditional “teaching, research, and service” mantra to the more proactive and interactive “learning, discovery, and engagement” template. (SEE RENEWING THE COVENANT: LEARNING, DISCOVERY, AND ENGAGEMENT IN A NEW AGE AND DIFFERENT WORLD: March, 2000)
I believe we must re-engage in this process (as we decided to do in our campus-wide retreat last month), and perhaps redefine what “community engagement” really means for a research university. In order to facilitate that thinking and program development, I have encouraged colleges and administrative units to create service or “community engagement” awards and have pledged an additional $100,000 to the Planning Initiative Awards pool to be specifically allocated for “community engagement” proposals.
The role we play in our community is a complex one that includes contributions in the humanities and fine arts — for example, the creation of a work of art, a play or a piece of music. We also conduct fundamental research — in astronomy and astrophysics, materials science, and bioinformatics, to name a few — that advances our understanding of how the world works. Today, we focus on our numerous community engagement and research activities that extend beyond traditional campus boundaries, efforts that demonstrate we are all citizens of a much larger community.
As you are all aware, we have been doing major work in this regard for many years, not only in academic disciplines, but in student life and co-curricular venues as well. A splendid example of our students engaging in community service is the ongoing work of the Rebel Service Council, a group of UNLV students volunteering their time — and a portion of their prepaid weekly meal plans — to provide bagged lunches to the homeless through the Meals on Wheels Program. Students give away one meal from their weekly meal plan and meet in the campus dining facility to form a peanut-butter-and-jelly-sandwich assembly line. The program runs for 16 weeks while school is in session and typically will deliver more than 200 bagged lunches a week for the homeless.
In past years I have focused on the 82nd ranked Law School and its marvelous clinics; the Institute for Modern Letters and our creative writers, including Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, and the City of Asylum project; on the tripling of teachers we graduate, the doubling of nurses we place in our community health-care network, and the multiple activities of our Center for Urban Partnerships.
Today, I wish to focus on a few examples of more recent and often novel activity to demonstrate how we are continuing the rapid development of academic programs and related scholarship to connect vitally with the world around us and to create new economic opportunities for the Las Vegas Valley and our state.
Sustaining Southern Nevada's Water Resources
Knowing that water issues are of absolutely critical concern to our growing population and geographic place in the world, researchers — some engaged in partnerships with scientists at DRI — in health physics, the Colleges of Engineering and Sciences, the Boyd School of Law and the Harry Reid Center for Environmental Studies are involved in a wide variety of water-related projects.
Among others, such projects include developing models of the Las Vegas Valley’s surface water and groundwater supply and distribution; analysis of water quality; creating models describing the spread of pollutants such as perchlorate and nitrates; evaluating the nature of urban runoff which is relevant to the quality of Lake Mead (our primary drinking water source); and monitoring the potential impact of earthquake events on groundwater near Yucca Mountain.
Research programs such as these — as well as the interdisciplinary water resources management graduate program — enable UNLV to serve as an important partner in addressing the community’s water needs, perhaps our single most critical environmental issue.
Entertainment Engineering, Technology, and Design
Here is a program that not only prepares students for careers in a multidisciplinary universe, it prepares students in whole new ways by combining and recombining knowledge and skills that rarely co-mingle in the world of traditional higher education. But the program will accomplish these ends not simply by creating new knowledge and ways of seeing — although it will do that too — but, most importantly, by contributing both professional people and research knowledge to our largest business partner in Nevada: the entertainment industry.
Already ranked number one in hotel administration and the preparation of professionals and research for the tourism and hospitality sectors of the economy, we are beginning an entertainment engineering minor this fall and a graduate program anticipated in the next two years. The coursework will utilize the expertise of both engineering and fine arts faculty and, once and for all, will dispel the myth that individuals are either right- or left-brain thinkers but cannot be both.
Consider for a moment the engineering feat required to move 1.5 million gallons of water in the Las Vegas show “O,” an $80 million production. Or the special effects in “Jubilee” or the flying piano in Celine Dion’s show or the drifting moon in “Mama Mia.” As Distinguished Professor Bob Boehm puts it: “Entertainment engineering is the application of technical concepts to enhance that entertainment experience — a true merging of education and research that will ultimately have a positive economic impact on our community.”
Nevada Test Site Oral History Project
This really interesting and unique project in the humanities and social sciences is a multi-year, multi-disciplinary project with a goal of recording and preserving the stories of hundreds of scientists, military personnel, ranchers, down-winders, tribal representatives, miners, protesters, and workers of all kinds who were connected to the Nevada Test site during the intense period of weapons testing in the mid 20th century.
Professors Andy Kirk, Bob Futrell, and Project Director Mary Palevsky are directing several graduate students from both sociology and history in the fascinating compilation of oral histories, to create irreplaceable historical records that embody the vital role the Nevada Test Site played in our nation’s history.
The project is funded by both the U.S. Departments of Energy and Education at more than $830,000 and proves once again how vital university scholarship is to preserving the unique history and culture of a community.
And despite how different water resource management, entertainment engineering, and Nevada Test Site oral history seem to be, they nevertheless demonstrate our commitment to help solve critical community problems. In two of these areas we link directly with our singular and matchless resources, the “Strip” and the Test Site, both absolutely unique entities in the world. If this is not engaging with community, I don’t know what is!
Division of Health Sciences and College of Education
One of the things that Dr. Mary Guinan, interim dean of our new School of Public Health has taught me is how absolutely devastating “health indicators” are in Nevada. Faculty and students in multiple disciplines will play an increasingly major role in positively influencing health care and access to health care in Nevada through research and community interaction.
To describe just one of dozens of examples, let’s take what started out as a modest commitment to one local fire department. Led by collaborative efforts of professors and graduate students from kinesiology, educational psychology, curriculum and instruction, and health promotion, and partnering with student volunteers in community health, criminal justice, and nursing, we have created a project to research and track cardiovascular disease over the careers of firefighters, the highest risk population for this killer disease.
Four Southern Nevada regional fire departments are currently involved in this project, with national, even international, participation expected. This is an example of how a modest commitment to one community agency can lead to international engagement in solving some of the world’s most intractable health problems.
Shadow Lane Campus
Developments at the Shadow Lane campus have been quite remarkable as well, and the entire UNLV family and larger community will be invited to attend a grand opening on October 21 that will demonstrate several major commitments to community well-being. And, Mayor Goodman, we hope you will play a major role in this celebration of UNLV’s presence in the city’s medical district.
- The School of Dental Medicine clinics, for example, are treating virtually all of Clark County Medicaid patients in addition to offering low-cost care to any community members who seek it. The Crackdown on Cancer program is, moreover, one of the most unusual of the Dental School’s outreach activities. A van with highly qualified oral health personnel travels throughout the state checking middle and high school students in Clark County and rural communities for potential pre-cancer signs and other oral health problems. More than 24,000 young people have been screened since the program’s inception.
- In addition, the Dental School has just forged a major public-private partnership from which we will develop an orthodontics specialty, which will include the treatment of community members at a reasonable cost. The School of Dental Medicine will receive a revenue stream of private funds over the next 30 years that will likely bring as much as $100 million to UNLV with virtually no state investments in the program. The private dollar commitment to this project will allow us to build a facility, employ highly trained orthodontics faculty, and contribute greatly needed specialty care to our community — a model for future public/private partnerships.
- The Shadow Lane campus has also created a mini-infrastructure to support various other forms of biomedical and biotechnological research through partnerships with the Nevada Cancer Institute, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and faculty members in the UNLV School of Dental Medicine. For example, a forensics laboratory will serve law enforcement personnel worldwide with DNA fingerprinting data. In addition, Dr. David Ward, a Yale faculty member and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, will occupy a Shadow Lane research laboratory with the prospect of a second lab dedicated to jointly sponsored cancer research.
- Many of our research efforts at Shadow Lane have been made possible by major federal grants facilitated by our Nevada delegation, led by the superb efforts of Sen. Harry Reid.
Public Lands Initiative
In addition, a new “public lands initiative” has been launched to develop public-private partnerships in support of federal land-management agencies and community organizations whose mission is to protect, conserve, and manage natural and cultural resources. Some of the projects currently in progress will lead to the creation of a residential environmental science school for fifth grade students, a floating science laboratory at Lake Mead for Clark County schoolchildren, and an outdoor recreation program for economically disadvantaged urban youth. And there are literally dozens and dozens of additional examples of a university reaching out in every way to create synergies with the community to which we are so inextricably bound.
Part III: “A Vision is a Dream with a Deadline": Midtown UNLV
As we would anticipate, UNLV’s Business School faculty is daily reaching out to partner with our local community in a variety of ways to enhance small business development, to offer financial and management planning, and to produce fine professional business leaders for our community and state. As an example of some of that work, two members of the faculty, Mike Clauretie and Debra March, have provided economic and demographic information and analysis for a community entrepreneur who has joined with us to create one of the most exciting projects in our history: Midtown UNLV.
In my view, this project can become the visible metaphor for, and physical manifestation of, our commitment to community engagement. Now what is this concept and why do we, as a university and as a community, need it?
One of the great challenges we have in Las Vegas is the creation of a new culture and an expanded economy. Despite the fact that, over just the last decade, the hospitality and gaming industries have brilliantly captured the tourism market by a series of clever moves from low-brow gambling packages and family fare to daring sex and sin city metaphors and marketing, Las Vegas is still known primarily (and in some places exclusively) as a rather crude and unsophisticated place where all things are done and all things (thankfully) stay here after the fact.
There is no question how successful this approach to marketing an entertainment and tourism city has been. However, such image building does little for us in higher education and actually runs somewhat counter to our efforts — and those of the most serious of our citizens — to build a cosmopolitan and sophisticated city and to diversify our economy.
As we discovered after 9/11, a one-industry town can be fragile and ephemeral. What we need to do is not to replace the unique city that is Las Vegas; rather, we wish to augment what is here: to build a framework around — or a core within — traditional Las Vegas and develop a truly “creative community,” and a mighty economic engine that is not dependent solely on its major industry. And what we have going for us is that such American cities have, at their hearts, one or more higher education institutions.
One of the most engaging and refreshing books I have read in a long time — and one that has helped me understand some of the dynamics with which we are dealing — is Richard Florida’s The Rise of the Creative Class.
Florida, who holds a named professorship at Carnegie Mellon University, articulates a basic premise that this new “creative class” is the 21stcentury’s emerging class as contrasted to the “working” (or manufacturing) or “service” classes of our past.
In Dr. Florida’s demography, the creative class is not a small, elite clan of aesthetes but rather a group of “38 million Americans, 30 percent of all employed people.”
“I define the core of the Creative Class to include people in science and engineering, architecture and design, education, arts, music and entertainment, whose economic function is to create new ideas, new technology and/or new creative content. Around the core, the Creative Class also includes a broader group of creative professionals in business and finance, law, health care and related fields. These people engage in complex problem solving that involves a great deal of independent judgment and requires high levels of education or human capital. In addition, all members of the Creative Class… share a common creative ethos that values creativity, individuality, difference and merit” (P.8).
Virtually everyone in this room today is part of this “Creative Class.”
Now, the rest of Florida’s premise may cause you some considerable heartburn, perhaps even distress. Because he ranks America’s world-class cities in relation to the size of the “creative class” those cities have attracted, and because Las Vegas has the largest “service class” in the country (and proportionately the lowest creative class), we can infer that he has little hope for our having the potential to be the next Seattle or Austin, Boston, San Diego, or New York. In fact, without specific reference to Las Vegas, he places us in a category of southwestern cities that are destined to lose creative class capital to the great contemporary cities mentioned earlier.
The good news is, however, that even in Florida’s rankings, Las Vegas has moved up on his “creativity index” from 117th among cities of 1 million or more population to 95th (while Reno, in a group of smaller cities, has gone down from 104th to 115th). The main reasons that Las Vegas is moving up is because we have a very positive ranking for diversity and tolerance (26th) and an even more positive ranking for what Dr. Florida calls the “bohemian index,” a measure of the density of writers, actors, musicians, designers, photographers, etc., an index that “turns out to be an amazingly strong predictor of everything from a region’s high-technology base to its overall population and employment growth.” These two measures make us fundamentally unlike other service-oriented or manufacturing communities.
Well, what’s new? Las Vegas is simply different, and someday I will ask Professor Florida to visit us and do a specific assessment of our environment that his theory can never accommodate. Although we are characterized by this mega-sized service-worker class, we have several of the qualities that will eventually allow us to join the ranks of first-class cities and we are rapidly moving on several fronts to accomplish that goal. But given our service economy and infrastructure, we must vigilantly create the opportunities and activities to move forward to achieve “world-class” status for our city and our state.
And how does UNLV fit into all this? Quoting Dr. Florida again:
“The presence of a major research university is a huge advantage in the creative economy… In my view, the presence of a major research university is a basic infrastructure component of the creative economy — more important than the canals, railroads and freeway systems of past epochs — and a huge potential source of competitive advantage.” (PP. 291-292).
Universities provide a hub for creative communities. But what is clearly underdeveloped in Las Vegas is the particular social and cultural climate that characterizes Madison, Wisconsin; Boulder, Colorado; Seattle, Washington; and particularly Austin, Texas. What these cities have and we don’t yet have — despite the most high-end entertainment in the world — is what Professor Florida calls the “street scene”:
“Alongside efforts to develop technology and tolerance, the city of Austin has also made considerable investments in its lifestyle and music scene — right down to the clubs and bars of Sixth Street” (P. 299).
A similar “urban university landscape” is present in Tempe, Arizona as well, a city that has partnered with a major metropolitan university, Arizona State, to establish a vibrant “university district.”
Florida finds little evidence in his exhaustive research that big-ticket attractions (for example, expensive sports arenas, modern malls, and other high-priced endeavors) attract the creative class. Because they are often young, single, late to marry, and diverse ethnically and in sexual orientation, the creative class is much more attracted to “outdoor recreation and a cutting-edge music scene,” cafes, small galleries and bistros (P. 166), even “non alcoholic hangouts” — the “third place” between home and work that more traditional workers may not crave to nearly the same extent.
Mike Saltman, local developer, philanthropist, and UNLV Foundation board member, and his architects have created some highly imaginative conceptual drawings that illustrate a vision of what the area around campus might look like. That is why Mike Saltman’s leadership in envisioning a place at our front door that is defined in these terms — a neighborhood of restaurants, cafes, outdoor gathering places, small-scale galleries, and welcoming residential and retail opportunities — could help transform our city and our university into a place that is an engine for the rising creative class and the vibrant economy of the future: a true “university district.”
Together with UNLV’s own facilities master plan, we have begun to share this visionary concept with the regents, Foundation board members, our partners on the county commission, in county government, and with the surrounding business community as well.
As some of you know, Mike and his wife Sonja are proud and generous benefactors to the Boyd School of Law’s Saltman Center for Conflict Resolution. Mike is with us today and I am proud to ask him to stand and be acknowledged for his progressive and visionary planning in partnership with UNLV and the community. County Manager Thom Reilly is also here and I would ask him to rise and accept our thanks for the cooperative and creative way the county has approached working with us on this splendid potential project. This venture will no doubt engage our imaginations and resources for many years to come.
We are enormously blessed in the people like Mike and Sonja who make up the community of creative professionals attached to the university and to its future. As an incredibly young enterprise, we have the flexibility, nimbleness, and entrepreneurial spirit that is fast creating a major metropolitan research university. What we may have underestimated in the past — and what is clearer to me every day — is how the development of our university links directly and vibrantly to the development of our community and our economy. We are not a basketball franchise with a trade school attached. Instead, we are the center of the creative class that is transforming everyday life and the economy in all the great cities in the world.
Please, all of you in our audience today, continue to bless our city and community with your vision, enterprise, and values. Help create the synergies that bind us together as one creative community. Las Vegas and UNLV are on the cutting edge of 21st century cities and universities, and there are no barriers to where we go from here!